PALIKIR, Pohnpei—Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia who are trying to secure a REAL ID driver’s license will now be required to present their FSM passport along with an I-94 form.
The new regulation is embodied in a directive the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued last Sept. 3 relating to the REAL ID Act of 2005 and its subsequent amendment in December 2018. This internal regulation changes the requirements for presenting an identity document in order to receive a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license.
FSM citizens will need their FSM passport and an I-94 form when applying for the driver’s license, as the new regulation has added these documents to the list of acceptable documents that establish identity for purposes of obtaining a REAL ID driver’s license.
U.S. Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 in 2005. It provides requirements for individuals when applying for REAL ID-compliant drivers license and identifications.
While the intent of the U.S. Congress was to exempt FSM citizens and those of the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands from the various requirements of the law, its subsequent implementation by DHS proved to be difficult for the citizens of the three countries. Citizens were subjected to other impediments including issuance of temporary licenses and ID for a renewable term of one year.
In December 2018, the U.S. Congress passed, and U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed, the REAL ID Act Modification for the Freely Associated States Act, an amendment to the 2005 law to further clarify the intent of the law with respect to citizens of the three countries. Citizens, however, became victims in the language of the law, which required visas as one of the three requisites to obtain REAL IDs. Under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, citizens of the FSM, ROP, and RMI may enter the United States visa-free, thus the visa requirement became even more problematic.
On Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, DHS announced an amendment to its regulations concerning the requirements for presenting an identity document in order to receive a REAL ID driver’s license. This amendment adds an FSM passport with an I-94 form to the list of acceptable documents that establish identity.
Specifically, DHS has designated “an unexpired foreign passport and valid Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) as acceptable identity documentation for purposes of obtaining a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card for eligible citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.”
This amendment corrects an earlier regulation that had determined that FSM citizens needed to obtain an Employment Authorization Document in order to establish identity for the purposes of obtaining a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license.
This amendment was issued the same day as a second amendment to DHS rules that DHS announced earlier on Tuesday, which clarifies that FSM citizens do not have “temporary lawful status” in the United States, and are therefore eligible to obtain driver’s licenses that are valid for up to eight years (which is the same for U.S. citizens).
DHS noted that “it is appropriate to designate this identity documentation for FAS citizens given the unique relationship between the United States and the FAS and considering that to live and work for indefinite periods, FAS citizens are not required to obtain a visa or EAD, which are documents currently required to establish identity for REAL ID purposes. DHS also believes the designation is consistent with the intent of Congress to facilitate the issuance of REAL ID licenses and identification cards to FAS citizens as demonstrated by enactment of the REAL ID Modification Act.”
DHS also noted that this amendment was “consistent with the spirit of the [Compact of Free Association].”
FSM President David W. Panuelo said, “I want to thank the U.S. government and the various U.S. agencies that have helped to resolve this issue. I am especially grateful for the FSM citizens in the United States who have advocated for fairness and equality, knowing very well that their lives became affected by this situation. With this DHS directive, we can close this matter and continue to focus on strengthening the special and enduring relationship between the FSM and the United States, particularly as our nations begin dialogue for negotiating our Compact post-2023.”
To ensure smooth implementation, Panuelo is directing Ambassador Susaia in Washington D.C. to work with his FAS colleagues to request that DHS inform all Department of Motor Vehicles throughout the United States about this updated regulation, so that citizens of the FAS countries are able to receive their driver’s licenses without additional delay or hindrance.
“The United States remains the FSM’s first and foremost ally, and it’s good to know that the U.S. government has again demonstrated that it can do the right thing,” Panuelo said. “Now that this issue is resolved, we can move forward—together.
Panuelo raised the REAL ID issue with U.S. President Donald Trump last May. (PR)