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 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
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
IDNYC applicants are not asked about their immigration status during the application process.
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that personal information given by New Yorkers when applying for an IDNYC card is protected and can be destroyed by the city government.
There has been renewed concern about personal information the city keeps on record, especially with regard to immigrants, since President Donald Trump’s election.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration would destroy IDNYC cardholder information to ensure it does not fall into the hands of the Trump administration, two Staten Island lawmakers filed a lawsuit. The case made it to the state Supreme Court, where it was determined that the court cannot prevent the destruction of the information or require the mayor to keep it.
“If you live here, you’re a New Yorker – period. That’s what IDNYC is all about. For years, we have fought to protect the sanctity of our program and maintain the trust we have built with our immigrant brothers and sisters,” de Blasio said in a statement after the court ruling. “Finally, the courts have spoken and our message has been ratified: diversity is not only celebrated in New York City, it’s protected. IDNYC cardholders’ documents are protected as confidential and destroyed.”
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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