The first IDNYC cards are set to expire in January, but the city wants to make it easier for New Yorkers to renew.
On Wednesday, the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), which oversees the program, will hold a public hearing at 125 Worth St. at 9:30 a.m. over proposed rule changes that would allow IDNYC users to renew their cards online. Some 1.3 million New Yorkers currently hold the municipal ID and use it as official documentation for public and private services.
Bitta Mostofi, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said the office — which spearheaded the program — plans to launch an online renewal portal in December to allow early adopters ample time to renew their membership and allow cardholders to submit paperwork, such as proof of address, online.
“We wanted to get a head start,” she said. “We wanted to make renewal as efficient and seamless for everyone.”
In addition to the rule changes regarding the IDNYC renewal process, HRA will hear about other proposals for the municipal cards. One would allow 10- to 13-year-old New Yorkers to apply for cards at their schools with permission slips from their parents and the other would waive fees for replacing stolen cards.
City nonprofits and advocates — particularly those that have promoted the municipal card as a way to give immigrant New Yorkers a secure form of identification — are thrilled the city is making the renewal process a priority. They hope tweaking the rules will incentivize more people to sign up for the service.
“This is an important first step to ensure that renewing is as easy as possible,” said Betsy Plum, the vice president of policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “We need to get the conversation of the renewal (going) early.”
The card, which includes the holder’s photo, address and gender, is available to city residents 10 years and older and does not require stating immigration status. It can be used as an official state ID for select applications and services, such as a job or bank account, and is recognized by the NYPD.
The card also comes with discounted memberships to cultural institutions such as the Museum of Natural History and MoMA. Plum said the card is helpful for immigrants in the city who must navigate the process of receiving a government-issued ID.
Mostofi said the city has been listening to feedback over the years and took some of the major complaints to heart with proposed rule changes. When the card first launched, applicants had to show up in person. Massive demand from thousands of New Yorkers resulted in many waiting as long as three months before their application was processed.
If the proposed rule changes go through, card users would only have to provide their documents in person if there are any questions about their scanned material.
“Giving people less of a burden of proof will make it easier to make sure they have greater access,” Plum said.
Plum said she and other immigrant groups are pleased that the city is making changes based on user feedback, but there are still areas that can be improved, particularly when it comes to security. Although the program does not ask for immigration status, Plum said some immigrant users are concerned that the card could leave them vulnerable.
Last summer, NBC4 reported that two Mexican-American parents who were living in Brooklyn were detained by ICE after using their IDNYC cards during a visit at Fort Drum to see their son-in-law, even though they had reportedly used the card during previous visits.
Plum and other groups also criticized the city when last year it proposed upgrading the IDNYC cards with a special chip that would allow the card to be loaded with money and used as a debit card at shops.
“We need to make sure there are no privacy invasions or consumer protector risks,” she said.
The Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs said it had no update about its payment chip proposal for IDNYC. But two weeks ago the city won a legal battle regarding cardholder privacy when a state Supreme Court Judge ruled against Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis and former Assemb. Robert Castorina, who sued the city in 2016 for slightly redacted documents related to the cardholders. The push was widely seen as an effort to identify undocumented immigrants and circumvent the city’s plan to destroy the personal information of applicants following the 2016 presidential election.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said personal information used in the application process will be kept confidential and destroyed.
Mostofi said her office is planning more changes to the card and its services and encouraged New Yorkers to bring their thoughts to the hearing.
“There are always ways to improve to reach some of the harder to reach populations and we’re actively engaging the community to get more access,” she said.
With Li Yakira Cohen