The city’s free municipal identification card program – the largest of its kind in the country – surpassed 1 million cardholders in March. 

Since a launch in 2015, 1,025,000 identity cards have been issued, the city said.

The cards provide 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, because navigating the ins and outs of New York City by yourself is hard enough as it is.

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 who is 14 and older can apply for the card, including the homeless, elderly, formerly incarcerated and immigrants without legal permission.

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 its own ID number and expiration date. There are options to include (or not include) gender, preferred language and emergency contact information. 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.

You can also use the ID 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.

Some banks will even 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.

Other things you can’t do with an IDNYC card include using it as ID to buy alcohol or tobacco products and for traveling by plane.

What you need to apply for an IDNYC card

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

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 time.

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 current address, utility bill, current lease, bank statement or a letter from a homeless shelter or city agency.

Ways to apply for an IDNYC card

You can either fill out an application online or at one of the city’s 26 enrollment centers in all five boroughs. 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.

The city unveiled mobile vans in mid-March, and there are pop-up enrollment locations.

ID card expiration

The card is valid for five years beginning on the date that 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

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

Trump vowed to crack down on what he called illegal immigration during his presidential campaign and has already signed an executive order that cuts 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. 

Regardless, 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 has 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. 

IDNYC benefits

A big draw for people to apply for an IDNYC card is the slew of benefits it offers. More than 35 cultural institutions have signed on to offer free, one-year memberships to cardholders in 2017.

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, 2013.

Here's a list of participating museums and cultural institutions for 2017:

Note: some cultural institutions from 2016 are not participating this year. Even if you signed up for your card in 2016, 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 Children’s Museum

Carnegie Hall

Center for Performance Research

Central Park Zoo (enrollment is only available at the Bronx Zoo)

China Institute

The Drawing Center

Film Forum

Flushing Town Hall

Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

Jacques Marchais Center for Tibetan Art

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Opera

Museum at Eldridge Street

Museum of Arts and Design

Museum of Chinese in America

Museum of Jewish Heritage

Museum of Modern Art

Museum of the City of New York

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

Queens Theatre

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      

Wave Hill

Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo