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The free municipal identification card program helps New Yorkers without another form of ID gain access to city buildings and services.

An IDNYC mobile van is intended to make it even easier to sign up for the free card. Photo Credit: Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

IDNYC, the city’s free municipal identification card program, entered its fifth year of free membership benefits in 2019.

The program — the largest of its kind in the country — provides a host of benefits to New Yorkers from all walks of life. From being able to access city services to signing up for free memberships at zoos, museums and other cultural institutions throughout the five boroughs, the IDNYC card can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Read on to learn more about the IDNYC program.

Who can apply for an IDNYC card

The beauty of the city’s municipal ID card is that it’s designed to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Anyone living in the city who is 10 and older can apply, including the homeless, elderly, college students, formerly incarcerated and immigrants without legal status.

Information listed on the card

Similar to a driver’s license, the ID card includes your name, address, birthday, height, eye color, signature and a photo. Additionally, each card has a unique ID number and expiration date. There are options to include (or not include) such as preferred language, emergency contact information and one of three gender options – male, female or X. Cardholders who want to change or add a gender listing on their ID can do so at no cost. Veterans can also have their status printed on the front of the card and you can choose to be an organ donor.

There are a few exceptions to listing an address on the ID card, such as if you’re a victim of domestic violence and are concerned for your safety or if you are part of the New York State Address Confidentiality Program.

Uses of an IDNYC card

Not only can an IDNYC card get you into city buildings, such as schools and offices, it can also help you gain access to city services and programs as well as medical facilities.

Cardholders can link registration records from NYC Health + Hospital facilities to their cards to make record access and patient information easier to process when visiting various facilities. Additionally, you can use the card to open an account with the New York Public Library. If you already have a library account, you can ask your librarian to sync it with your IDNYC card.

If you are stopped by police, the IDNYC card is considered an acceptable form of proof of identification.

Over a dozen banks, including the addition of People’s United Bank, will allow you to use an IDNYC card to open an account.

What IDNYC cannot be used for

While the card may seem similar to a driver’s license, it does not permit the cardholder to drive. It also can’t be used as proof of identity to get a driver’s license and it won't grant immigration status or provide authorization to work.

The card also cannot be used for air travel or to buy alcohol or tobacco products.

What you need to apply for an IDNYC card

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In order to secure an ID card, you have to prove your identity as well as your residency in New York City. Enrollment is free.

The city uses a points system for documents, so you can figure out how many you need to apply for an IDNYC card. You need to provide three points for proof of identity and one point for residency. Depending on the documents presented, the city may ask for more than one item.

Documents such as a passport (U.S. or foreign), driver’s license, birth certificate, green card, school ID card, electronic benefit transfer card and more can be used to establish proof of identity.

For proof of residency, acceptable documents include a driver’s license with a current address, utility bill, current lease, bank statement, college residency documentation or a letter from a homeless shelter or city agency.

IDNYC staff may also be able to use existing records from certain city agencies to verify some residency and identity information.

Ways to apply for an IDNYC card

You can either fill out an application online or at one of the city’s enrollment centers, located in all five boroughs. Applicants between 10 and 13 years old must apply in person at an enrollment center and be accompanied by a caregiver who can co-sign the application.

If you plan to apply at an enrollment center, you must make an appointment ahead of time. You can book an appointment on the IDNYC website or by calling 311.

ID card expiration

The card is valid for five years beginning on the date the application was approved. The expiration date is shown on the card.

Lost or stolen ID card

Head to an IDNYC Department of Finance Business Center (there are several locations) to replace a lost, stolen or damaged IDNYC card. The replacement will cost $10 and you have to bring all of the documents used to apply for the card. Hardship waivers are available if you can’t afford the replacement fee.

IDNYC and immigration

There has been renewed concern about personal information the city keeps on record, especially with regard to immigrants, since President Donald Trump's election.

Trump vowed to crack down on what he considered to be illegal immigration during his presidential campaign and signed an executive order in January 2017 that aimed to cut federal grant money for cities that harbor immigrants without legal status (commonly called sanctuary cities).

Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, has promised to protect the city’s immigrants and fight any actions that may result from the executive order, even going as far as to threaten to delete all IDNYC cardholder information.

Two Staten Island lawmakers sued the city, seeking to keep de Blasio's administration from deleting any data, but a judge ruled that the court cannot prevent the destruction of the information or require the mayor to keep it.

Rosemary Boeglin, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, assured that the information will remain safe.

“The city holds confident that we will be able to protect all IDNYC cardholder information,” she said.

IDNYC applicants are not asked about their immigration status during the application process.

De Blasio also promised not to turn over data from the IDNYC program to the federal government. The mayor said the city is processing new enrollments under a new policy that doesn’t retain the personal documents of the applicant.

Additionally, the city does not keep any original documentation used in the application process and copies of submitted documents from older applications are destroyed within two years of the application date.

For In California Notary Of Services Identification La Mobile Jolla Forms IDNYC benefits

A big draw for people to apply for an IDNYC card is the slew of benefits it offers. More than 40 cultural institutions have signed on to offer free one-year memberships to cardholders in 2019. Cardholders can also receive discounts with Citi Bike and Zipcar, public libraries, sporting events, recreational activities, entertainment cruises and educational activities.

There are two rules when it comes to signing up for a free membership:

1. Your IDNYC card must have a valid expiration date.

2. You can only sign up for a free membership at a particular institution if you have not been a member there since Jan. 1, 2014.

Here's a list of participating museums and cultural institutions for 2019:

Note: Some cultural institutions from 2018 are not participating this year. Even if you signed up for your card in 2018, only the institutions listed below will provide the membership opportunity. 

  • American Museum of Natural History
  • BRIC
  • Bronx County Historical Society
  • Bronx Museum of the Arts
  • BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
  • Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum
  • Carnegie Hall
  • Central Park Zoo (enrollment is only available at the Bronx Zoo)
  • China Institute
  • The Drawing Center
  • Film Forum
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  • Flushing Town Hall
  • International Print Center New York
  • Jacques Marchais Center for Tibetan Art
  • King Manor
  • Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
  • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Metropolitan Opera
  • Museum at Eldridge Street
  • Museum of Chinese in America
  • Museum of Jewish Heritage
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Museum of the City of New York
  • National Geographic Encounter
  • For In California Notary Of Services Identification La Mobile Jolla Forms New York Aquarium (enrollment is only available at the Bronx Zoo)
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • New York City Ballet
  • New York City Center
  • MoMA PS1
  • Park Avenue Armory
  • Pregones Theater
  • Prospect Park Zoo (enrollment is only available at the Bronx Zoo)
  • The Public Theater
  • Queens Museum
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  • Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
  • St. George Theatre
  • Staten Island Museum
  • Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling
  • Symphony Space
  • TADA! Youth Theatre
  • Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo

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