How to Get a Cheap Photo ID

How to Get a Cheap Photo ID
••• us passport image by Albert Lozano from

Obtaining an official identification from your home state is easy and cheap. It just requires a visit to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office with the correct paperwork and documentation in hand. Some online services offer cheap photo IDs online, but for most purposes you'll need an official, legal ID only offered by the government. Avoid scams that take your money and give you a useless fake ID by going to an official source.

Download a list of documents required by the Real ID Act, available on most local DMV websites. If your local DMV does not have a list posted, call or visit to get a list.

Collect documentation. Typically, this will fall into three to four categories: a form of identification, a Social Security card, two proofs of address and one or more name change verifications. Acceptable identification includes a birth certificate, Certificate of U.S. Citizenship, Certificate of Naturalization or a valid passport.

For proof of address, you need two documents. Tax records, lease agreements, mortgage documents, a W-2 form, a weapons permit, a current utility bill, or some official communication that came through the mail from a bank or other business are all acceptable. If you have received no official mail at your address, bring along a roommate or family member who has that kind of documentation, plus anything that came through the mail addressed to you, like a magazine subscription.

People (usually women) who have changed their name due to marriage or divorce will be expected to show proof of each. The exception to this would be someone who married but never changed the name on previous identification. If all identification is in your maiden name and you wish to keep it that way, it is unlikely you will be expected to provide marriage or divorce documentation.

Make an appointment at the nearest DMV. Most offices offer online appointment-setting.

Take your documentation to the appointment and be prepared to have a picture taken. In addition, some states require a form that you can download and fill out, or fill out while you wait. The cost of the Real ID averages about $20, and there may be an additional processing fee. It's cheaper than a driver's license in most states, and much cheaper than getting a passport.


  • You do not need an appointment, but the wait time can be drastically shortened in a busy DMV office if you do make an appointment beforehand.

    If you do not have a birth certificate, contact the vital records office of the state where you were born. Start the process a few weeks before you need to get an ID.


  • Identification for foreign nationals may have different requirements.