It’s hard to do anything without valid identification, so it’s important to know how to get a free photo ID if you need one. Whether you’ve lost yours and need a replacement, or need help getting your first one, we’ve found a slew of resources that can help.
No matter where you live in the United States, there are some strategies you can use to get a free photo ID. If these don’t work for you, be sure to check our Local Resources heading below for additional options that may be available in your state.
Voter Registration Departments
Many states require voters who arrive at the polls to show photo ID in order to vote. These states include North Carolina and Tennessee. In order to ensure that the states have free and fair elections, these states usually have a mechanism for providing free photo ID to voters.
In order to get these IDs, you will need to contact your local election office. This could be your county board of elections or a specific state department.
Many agencies that offer homeless services can help unhoused people obtain a free photo ID. This is important because valid identification is often required to get benefits, apply for jobs, or obtain stable housing. Without it, all of these tasks become much more difficult.
Contact your local homeless shelter or call 211 for guidance on any organizations in your area that may be able to help. Often, churches and other nonprofits can help you get the documentation you need and pay the fee required to help you get a valid ID.
Fee-Waivers for Low Income People
Many states offer fee waivers for customers who meet income guidelines. If you have a very low income, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver to get a free photo ID. However, this offer does vary by state.
If you are interested in seeing if a fee waiver is available in your area, I’d start by calling your caseworker. You can also call the state DMV or your county tax collector to see if they are aware of any programs like this in your area.
Churches & Charities
Many churches and charities will pay the fees required to help you get a photo ID. You can’t really improve your financial situation unless you have one, so many organizations that provide financial assistance will also help you get a valid photo ID.
In order to find an organization like this in your area, it helps to call 211 or reach out to community organizations in your area for referrals.
Tribal ID Cards
If you are eligible for Tribal enrollment, many tribes offer free ID cards for their members. For example, the Cherokee Nation provides your first photo ID for free. If it is stolen or lost, you will have to pay a nominal fee to have it replaced.
In order to find out if you can get a free Tribal ID, you will need to contact your tribal authority and ask about their fee structure.
If you lost your photo ID or other identifying documents during a declared disaster, then emergency service providers may be able to help you get a replacement. Mass Legal Help said, “Many agencies will accept your word when you apply for disaster relief. Others will help you get the proof you need.”
Losing your identifying documents can make it very difficult to get replacements because you often need one type of identifying document to get another. If you end up struggling to get a free photo ID after a disaster, contact your local legal aid organization or 211 for assistance.
If you lost your identification due to theft, some states may provide a free replacement if you provide a copy of the police report.
Depending on where you live, there may be additional options available to you. We’ve divided the remainder of our resources into state-specific subheadings for your convenience.
In order to receive a free photo ID in Alabama, you’ll need to register to vote in the state and have some identifying documentation. These documents could include a birth certificate, marriage record, military record, Medicaid letter, school records or other official documentation that includes your full legal name and date of birth.
If you do not have these documents available to you, then you may be able to get them for free. The Alabama Secretary of State has been working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to ensure that people can get a free birth certificate or marriage certificate if they need one.
If your income is at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level you may be eligible for a free photo ID. This is called the No-Free 100% Poverty Level ID Card and it’s available to those who are enrolled in a DCF assistance program, have an Access Florida Benefits Card, or can prove their income based on last years’ tax returns.
There is also a No-Fee Homeless ID Card for those who are currently unhoused. You will need to have a letter from the state’s DCF office, a local school district homeless education liaison, or a homeless shelter in order to qualify.
It is not clear if these no-fee IDs are available statewide or only in certain counties. Many county tax assessor’s offices have published announcements about them. They are definitely available in Pinellas County and Hillsborough County. If you’re interested, please contact your county tax collection department for details.
Any registered voter in Kansas who does not have a valid photo ID can request a fee waiver. That means you can get a free photo ID in Kansas if you need one to vote.
You just need to fill out form DE-VID1 and bring it to your local Division of Motor Vehicles. You’ll also need to bring documentation showing your full legal name, date of birth, lawful presence in the United States and proof of address.
The Missouri Department of Revenue can provide a free photo ID to Missouri residents who need one. However, to get that you typically need certain documents that can be expensive or difficult to get.
That’s when the Missouri Department of Health steps in. You can get a free copy of your certified Missouri birth certificate if you need it. If you need documentation from other states or the federal government, the Missouri Secretary of State can help you get those free of charge as well.
The free voter ID from the state of New Hampshire is not the same as a state ID. The state claims that it can only be used for voting purposes. However, it’s still better than not having any identification at all.
You can obtain a free photo ID for voting by visiting your Town Clerk‘s office. When you arrive, you will have to sign an affidavit verifying that you do not have any other valid photo ID. They’ll make sure you’re on the voter checklist and then give you a voucher. You’ll have to take that voucher to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get your free ID.
New York City residents can get a free photo ID called idNYC. This card also works as a library card and membership pace to more than 30 cultural institutions. It’s incredible!
You can sign up for one of these cards at several locations around the city but you’ll need to make an appointment. You can schedule your appointment online.
North Carolina generously offers free photo ID to people who meet specific requirements. These state IDs are available from the NC Division of Motor Vehicles.
You may be eligible for a no-fee ID from the state if you are a North Carolina resident and meet any ONE of the following requirements:
- You are under age 17.
- You are legally blind.
- You are homeless.
- You had a license but it was cancelled due to a disability or disease.
- You were diagnosed with a developmental disability.
If you are registered voter in North Carolina, you can also get a free ID from your county board of elections. You just need to provide your name, date of birth, last four digits of your Social Security Number and get your photo taken. You don’t need to bring any documentation with you. These IDs are valid for 10 years.
Homeless people in Pennsylvania can receive either a free photo ID card or a free renewal.
The state considers you homeless if you meet any ONE of the following criteria:
- You do not have a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residents.
- Your primary nighttime residence is a place not ordinarily used for regular human sleeping accommodations (such as a car, park, abandoned building, train station, airport or campground).
- You are living in a supervised shelter or temporary housing arrangement (such as a hotel).
- You used to be homeless and you’re leaving a place where you had temporary shelter (like a hospital).
- You are imminent danger of losing your housing and have nowhere to go. This includes having an eviction notice or not having enough money to pay for your hotel for at least two weeks).
- You are a youth or live in a family with children who have experienced persistent instability.
- You are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic or dating violence, assault, stalking, or other dangerous conditions.
This service is available for eligible customers who arrive in-person at a PennDOT Driver License Center. You’ll need to go to the counter and tell them that you are requesting a free ID due to your homeless status. You’ll need to bring some documentation, including at least one identifying document and a Social Security card.
South Carolina residents can get a free photo ID for voting purposes. If you’re a registered voter, you can pick one up from the county office in charge of voter registration and elections. You’ll just need your name, date of birth and Social Security Number. If you prefer, you can also get a free ID from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
You can get a free photo ID from the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security if you are a registered voter in Tennessee. In order to get this, you will need to bring proof of citizenship (like a birth certificate) and two documents proving that you live in Tennessee to your local Driver Service Center. You will also be required to sign an affidavit verifying that you do not have a valid government-issued photo ID already.
If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits in Washington DC, you can get a free photo ID from the Department of Human Services. You just need to contact your caseworker or call (202) 724-5506 for assistance.
n some areas, you can get a free photo ID if you receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You just need to contact your caseworker or call the state hotline to ask about this service.
It is not clear if this is a service available in all areas, but we know for sure that it’s an option for people who live in Washington DC.
Wisconsin offers free photo ID for voters, too! You just need to get yours from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. If any fees arise, make sure to fill out the ID Petition Process form to make sure those fees are waived.
It’s best if you can bring proof of name, date of birth, identity, residency and citizenship. You’ll also be required to share your Social Security Number. If you don’t have all of those, you can still get a free photo ID. It’ll just be a restricted ID that can only be used for voting purposes.
Even if you don’t drive a car, it’s important to carry valid photo ID. If you don’t have one, many aspects of life become more difficult and some become downright impossible. For example, you’ll often be asked to show your identification in order to rent a home, buy a car, open a bank account, get a job, apply for a grant, travel, pick up your mail, and more. You often can’t get benefits like SNAP or Medicaid without photo ID either.
This article includes ways that you can get a free photo ID from different federal and state agencies if you can’t afford one. From free homeless photo IDs to low income fee waivers, this article explains what you need to do to get your free identification.