In order to obtain a government-issued photo ID, you’ll need to visit a branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or an office of the Secretary of State (SOS) in person. Most states process driver’s licenses and IDs through the DMV, but some, including Michigan and Illinois, offer these services through SOS offices.
While banks, libraries, schools, and employers may offer photo IDs, these ID cards usually won’t meet the criteria to serve as valid identification under legal requirements. For example, you can’t use them to buy alcohol or board a plane. In addition, some forms of ID, such as a library card, may require an existing photo ID to obtain. When getting a school or employee ID, you will usually receive it within a day.
Other Ways to Avoid the Lines
DMV Express Services
Some states offer “express” or service-expedited DMV locations, which can cut down your wait time. For instance, New Mexico offers 11 full-service MVD Express locations and lists up-to-date wait times at each location on its website.
If you just need to renew your state-issued photo ID, you may be able to do so online. Several states, including California, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin, allow you to renew your license or ID online if you meet the qualifications. You can check with your state’s DMV or Secretary of State’s office to find out about options in your area. While renewing online does allow you to skip the DMV, it isn’t the best option if you need your new ID in a hurry — receiving your new license or ID after renewing online can take anywhere from 10 to 45 business days.
Certain applicants may also be eligible to renew a photo ID by mail. Requirements vary by state. For example, in Connecticut you may be eligible for this option if you’re:
- an active-duty military member
- currently out of state
- unable to appear for medical reasons
Depending on your state, you should receive your new ID within two to six weeks.
Getting a Passport
Another option for a photo ID that doesn’t require a visit to the DMV is to get a passport. Valid U.S. passports can be obtained from many U.S. post offices — you may even be able to take your passport photo on site. When getting a passport, you can choose between routine (six to eight weeks) and expedited (two to three weeks) processing. First-time passport applicants will need to provide two existing forms of ID, including a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID. A valid driver’s license is the easiest way to fulfill the second identification requirement, but if you do not have a driver’s license, there are a few alternative forms of ID you can use (like a non-driver ID card or your social security card).