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I.D. Newsletter - October 2017

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Today’s I.D. Security Features – Many Levels

Posted on: October 25th, 2017

Let’s take a few moments to see how basic knowledge of document security features can dramatically improve our success in validating a document.


Knowledge of the basic security features of each license format permits improved document verification. For example, on the new Kansas driver’s license:

LASER PERFORATION: Holes made with a laser beam to form images or objects. The Kansas license shows the shape of a turtle. (Procedure: hold the license up to the light: laser perforation is on front of the license, at upper right, and is visible on the back of license, too.)

MICROPRINTING: Miniature lettering is incorporated into fine-line backgrounds or placed to appear as bold lines at a scale that requires magnification to read with the naked eye. To the unaided eye, the text may appear as a solid line when not under magnification. Counterfeiters may have difficulty duplicating the letters, or may overlook the existence of the microprinting. (Procedure: use of a 10X magnifier or greater.)


Multiple, sophisticated security features are built into the new Permanent Resident Card, and two of the quickest security features to check are the following:

Front: Three transparent star-shaped windows of different sizes are at the upper left of the new Permanent Resident Card. TRANSPARENT IMAGE/OPTICAL WINDOW: See-through, window-like feature visible from front and back of the document. Across the stars, PERSONAL TACTILE ARTISTIC TEXT appears. Additional security appears within one or more of the star windows. (Procedure: hold to light source; see-through from both sides.)

Back: To the right of the licensee’s photo, security feature of a HOLOGRAM WITH OPTICAL VARIABLE LASER IMAGE that varies with the angle of viewing and light source. (Procedure: hold license and shift angle of viewing to confirm the security feature.)


Many countries have contracted with license and identity card manufacturers to create modern documents with full security protection. That includes some third-world countries that are attempting to properly identify their population for voting and other purposes.


Austria has had a sophisticated Identity Card for many years, and an example of the features that one finds internationally is the following:

LASER ETCHING WITH LASER SHIFTING IMAGE: Laser creates a raised surface on one side of the card, tactile feel to the touch, and a shifting image “2010” in this case. Also note laser etched lettering that does not appear on the back of the license. (Procedure: Shift the card in appropriate light source; tactile to the touch.)


In validation efforts using security features, knowledge and proper location of the visible and difficult-to-counterfeit security aspects are the key to success.


What Exactly is Real ID?

Real ID licenses are licenses that have met the minimum security standards as outlined by the Dept. of Homeland Security. License holders produce additional documentation to validate their identities when applying for a Real ID license. The licenses issued have more security features, making them difficult to tamper with or duplicate.

How and When Does Real ID Affect Me?

The date for mandatory Real ID compliance by the states has been delayed multiple times. Currently, as of January 22, 2018 you will need a Real ID license, an Enhanced Driver License, or a non-compliant license with a second form of ID to enter a Marine Base. If your state is compliant or has an extension, most other compliance rules will be mandatory starting on October 1, 2020. At that time you will need a Real ID license to fly or enter federal buildings, military bases, and nuclear power plants.

Why Do Some Real ID Stars Look Different?

If a license has a Real ID star, it would reside in the top right corner of the license. They can be black, they can be gold, they can be a solid star or a cut-out of a star in a black or gold circle - they are all created equal and are a design choice. Selden Biggs of DHS helps provide some illumination “…we have accepted a range of design alternatives based on card technology – e.g., polycarbonate vs. laminate – and design. All stars are equivalent. The star is simply a visual indicator that the license is compliant and is not a security feature.” At this time not all compliant licenses have stars and some licenses with stars are not yet fully compliant.

Can I Get a Real ID License?

Check your state’s compliance at


Current I.D. Checking Guide Subscribers have access to all the latest license changes, go to:
Enter the code located on the inside front cover of your 2017 U.S. & Canada I.D. Checking Guide.