Identification and Vital Documents

The lack of a valid government identification document (I.D.), or vital documents needed to obtain an I.D. card, can be a huge barrier to housing and employment for many people experiencing homelessness.   Please read below for information on resources to assist with obtaining valid government I.D. or other related vital documents (e.g. Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, etc.).

How can I get help to get an I.D. or other documents?
The State of Hawaii contracts the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii specifically to provide civil legal services to assist individuals experiencing homelessness to obtain identification documents required for permanent housing placement, such as a State I.D., birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate, and/or Social Security Card.   To contact Legal Aid, please call 808-536-4302 on Oahu or 1-800-499-4302 on the neighbor islands.   You may also visit the Legal Aid website to complete online intake.

In addition, you may also contact a Homeless Outreach Provider for assistance with obtaining an I.D. or other vital documents related to housing.   For a full list of homeless outreach providers in your area, please visit the Statewide Homeless Outreach Map.

What if I cannot afford the fee for a State I.D.?
Section 286-309, Hawaii Revised Statutes and Section 19-149-19(e), Hawaii Administrative Rules, allows for the waiver of all fees for the issues of an original or renewal identification card for any individual who is homeless; provided that the individual’s homeless status is corroborated by a verification letter issued by an authorized homeless service provider.  A template letter to verify homelessness status and to request a Hawaii State I.D. fee waiver is provided at the link below:

What if I cannot afford the fee for a Hawaii Birth Certificate?   Is there a similar fee waiver?
Act 174, Session Laws of Hawaii 2018 required the Hawaii Department of Health to waive the fees for a certified copy of a Hawaii birth certificate for any individual who is homeless, provided the individual’s homeless status is corroborated by a verification letter issued by a homeless service provider.  Act 174 did sunset on June 30, 2021, however the Acting State Registrar issued a memo dated July 7, 2021 to extend the fee waiver for homeless individuals, as well as to also allow for the waiver of fees for marriage certificates for homeless individuals.

The Hawaii Department of Health has also established an expedited process for requesting Hawaii birth certificates with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Institute for Human Services.  Individuals who are unable to access services through Legal Aid or I.H.S. may also contact any other authorized homeless service provider to assist them with this process.

What if my Birth Certificate is from another state outside of Hawaii?
Each State has different policies regarding the process to request a Birth Certificate.   If your birth certificate is from outside of Hawaii, please consult with a legal service provider, such as the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, for help.   Or, you may also contact a homeless outreach provider for assistance.

What if I am unable to get my Social Security card?  Will this impact my ability to get a State I.D.?
Effective June 18, 2021, the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s administrative rules have been amended to waive the requirement for State I.D. and Driver’s License applicants to provide documentary evidence of their Social Security Number, such as the Social Security card or a W-2.  The applicant must still provide a valid Social Security Number (SSN), which will be checked against the Social Security Administration database.  These amended rules apply to all applications for a State I.D. or Driver’s License in Hawaii, and not just for individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

How do I request a new Social Security card if I have lost or do not have my original card?
Social Security cards are provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) free of charge.  Some people may be able to use SSA’s online system to create an account and complete the online application page.  However, many people may have difficulty using the system.  People who are unable to use the online system will need to mail in an application and supporting documents, and the processing time is generally around ten days.  Because SSA does not accept photocopies of required documents, people are advised to use caution if choosing to mail any original proof of identity documents (e.g. birth certificate, passport, etc.).  A full list of acceptable documents and alternatives is included on SSA’s Social Security card application.

Homeless individuals and homeless service providers may send in a certified medical record for a person requesting a replacement Social Security card.   The process to obtain a certified medical record is very specific and requires the medical provider to sign the form with specific language certifying the document is authentic (e.g. “I certify that this is an accurage copy of an original document from our office.”) with original signature of doctor and date.  The statement must be written and signed directly on the document, cannot be separate letter attached, and no photocopies of signatures are allowed.

Please keep in mind that there are limits on the number of social security cards the SSA will issue.  An individual may receive no more than three replacement social security cards in a year and ten replacement social security cards per lifetime.

Are there any other requirements needed to comply with the REAL I.D. Act or to get a ‘Gold Star’ I.D.?
Information regarding the federal READ ID requirements and a fact sheet with useful information be found at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  You may also visit the Hawaii Department of Transportation page on Hawaii State Identification Card for more information regarding the requirements for REAL ID, including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and contact information for the DMV offices at the City & County of Honolulu, County of Maui, County of Kauai, and County of Hawaii.

What if I am not a U.S. Citizen?   Are there helpful resources to assist me with questions I have regarding immigration and documentation?
Please view the attached presentation from the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic on Immigration and Key Documents: An Overview.   You may also view a recording of the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic presentation (presentation starts at the 3:00 minute mark).

For more information, you may also contact the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center.

What if I need an I-94?   What is an I-94?
An I-94 is a record of arrival into the United States for people who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, including qualified non-citizens under the Compact of Free Association (COFA).  For qualified non-citizens, the I-94 is an essential document to access many things, such as employment, driver’s license, and benefits for housing and unemployment insurance.  The I-94 does not expire and includes your I-94 number (also known as your ‘admissions number’).  There are generally three ways to obtain an I-94:

  1. Within five years of entering the U.S., print your I-94 at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search and fill in your name, birthday, passport number, and country.
  2. After five years, submit a free Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by going to https://foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/request.  The FOIA request is free and you will need to fill in “CBP FOIA Division” for Agency and “I-94” for  Type of Record Requested.  Please note you will need an e-mail address and it may take over one month to process your request.
  3. After five years, you may request a formal I-94 at https://www.uscis.gov/i-102.   Please be advised that after five years there will be a $445 fee to obtain a formal I-94

What is a “green card”?  How do I get a renew my “green card”?
An individual with Lawful Permanent Resident Status (also known as “LPR” or a “green card holder”) can live and work in the U.S. without restrictions.  A “green card” is more formally known as a Permanent Resident Card. For more information, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) page on Green cards.  LPR status does not expire even if the green card itself is expired.  To renew your green card, go to the USCIS page at https://wwww.uscis.gov/i-90.  If you are unable to afford the fee, you may apply for a fee waiver.