What to Know
- Philadelphia's municipal identification program allows homeless people, those living in the country illegally and minors to obtain photo ID.
- Supporters view the PHL City ID cards as a boon to people without licenses and an alternative for those without valid ID cards.
- Opponents say such cards give people illegally in the country access to services to which they shouldn't be entitled.
Philadelphia began its municipal identification program Thursday, allowing homeless people, those living in the country illegally and minors to obtain photo ID cards.
The city joins New York, Chicago, San Francisco and several others on offering such cards, which can be used as ID to access city buildings, museums, recreation centers, to interact with law enforcement and more. You won't, however, be able to use the IDs to board a plane or as a primary ID to open a bank account.
PHL City IDs cost $5 for teens, $10 for adults and is free to those 65 and older.
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Residents must be able to prove their identities and addresses using a four-point system similar to what the Department of Motor Vehicle uses. Veteran's ID cards, a student ID, bank statements and pay stubs also work. A letter from a shelter or social service agency is also accepted to prove residency.
Cardholders can also choose their preferred genders, something much talked about when the ID program was first introduced. There's also the option to add medical conditions or emergency contact information.
Undocumented immigrants can't get a driver's license in Pennsylvania so this new ID gives them a chance at obtaining photo ID. New Jersey also blocks undocumented people from getting a driver's license while Delaware also them to apply for a license that doesn't count as photo ID.
“Today Philly has shown once again it is not afraid to do what is right for our communities," said Miguel Andrade, communications manager of Philadelphia-based Latino immigrant rights advocacy group Juntos. "The mere act of having a government issued ID means that for the first time many of Philadelphia’s marginalized communities are being officially recognized by our city. From undocumented immigrant, to returning citizens as well as members of the LGBTQ community, this is a huge victory and a step forward to further integrate into the fabric of our city."
At a Thursday morning news conference, City officials trumpeted what they say is the inclusiveness the ID brings and urged all residents to get the card, even those with PennDOT-issued ID.
"Get your card," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "Because one of the main concerns we had, relative to this card and why it took a little longer, was that we didn't want it to be a scarlet letter for undocumented individuals... the more people we have get theses, the safer our undocumented residents will be."
Supporters view the identification cards as a boon to people without licenses and an alternative for those without valid ID cards. Opponents say such cards give people illegally in the country access to services to which they shouldn't be entitled.
Immigration advocates have voiced concerns about use of the personal information required, but officials say no copies of documents are retained.
Lauren Cox, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia's mayor's office, said officials are "very sensitive to the need for these cards to maintain a high level of integrity while ensuring the privacy of cardholders."
Those with PHL City IDs will be able to benefit from discounts with several organizations including Lyft, the Kimmel Center, the Phillies, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, the Free Library and more.
Click here for information on how to get a PHL City ID, print your application and to set up an appointment.