(CNN) -- The Department of Homeland Security insists the Real ID Act is an essential tool to fight the war on terror, but critics say it's an overly intrusive measure that raises privacy concerns.
The act aims to weave driver's licenses and state ID cards into a sort of national identification system. States must begin issuing new federal licenses by May 11, 2008, unless they receive an extension. The cards would be mandatory for all "federal purposes." People in states that don't comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes.
The following provides requirements of the act, signed in 2005:
Who must get one?
Anyone with a driver's license or state ID who is an American citizen or legal alien, or who has permanent resident status, a nonimmigrant visa, protected status, asylum or pending application for asylum.
What must federal driver's licenses contain?
Name, address, date of birth, gender, driver's license or state ID number, photo, signature and security features to prevent tampering and counterfeiting. The data must be stored on a bar code.
When do they go into effect?
May 11, 2008, but states can request an extension to January 1, 2010.
Where will the information be kept?
States are charged with storing your personal information and digital photo for seven to 10 years. The states also are charged with protecting the information and running security clearances.
Why do I have to get one?
The Real ID Act of 2005 passed as part of an emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill. The act is aimed at "improved security for driver's licenses and personal identification cards."
How do I get one?
Complying states' department of motor vehicle offices will require you to show up before May 10, 2013, and provide a photo ID, birth certificate, proof of Social Security account and proof of residence.
What if I live in a noncompliant state?
No federal agency will accept your state-issued driver's license as a valid form of ID. You will need to use a passport at federal buildings and parks, and for domestic air travel. E-mail to a friend