Beginning April 19, 2010, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will end the current practice of “over-the-counter” issuance of driver licenses (DLs) and non-operator identification cards (IDs) and switch to a system known as “central issuance.” At the same time, the DOT will begin issuing new DLs and IDs that offer greater security features and are made with more resilient and durable materials.  This change will occur at all 19 DOT driver’s license stations and in all of the 81 county treasurer offices that issue DLs and IDs.

Under central issuance:

  • Customers will continue to go to the DOT station or participating county treasurer’s office of their choice to obtain a DL or ID. (Note: The River Place DL station on Euclid Avenue in Des Moines is a renewal-only station.)
  • While at the station or county office, a customer approved for a DL or ID will be given a temporary document valid for 30 days. This temporary document will be issued on security paper and will contain the same information as the final DL or ID, two photos of the customer, and several security features recognizable to law enforcement and other officials.
  • If the customer has an existing DL or ID, the customer will retain it as an additional form of identification, to be used with the temporary document. However, a hole will be punched in the existing DL or ID to prevent its continued, independent use. If the customer does not have an existing DL or ID, the customer will leave the DOT station or participating county office with only the temporary document.
  • The new, final DL or ID will be produced at and mailed from a heavily secured and safeguarded central facility. Customers will receive their final DL or ID before the temporary one expires, typically within two weeks.
  • Delivery by mail is consistent with other important documents Iowans receive, such as credit cards, car titles, birth certificates and passports. The DLs and IDs will be mailed in unmarked envelopes that do not suggest or reveal the contents. An address verification system will be used to make sure the customer’s mailing address is a valid address in the proper U.S. postal format.
  • Central issuance only affects the way DL and ID cards are delivered. It does not affect the application process, the renewal period (typically once every five years), or any requirements for obtaining a DL or ID, such as proof of age and identity or required testing. The fee charged to customers for a DL or ID will not increase.

The primary goal of central issuance is to protect Iowans against identity theft and fraud. It does so in several ways:

  • Central issuance helps prevent theft of printers and materials used to make DLs or IDs, by placing everything in a single, heavily secured facility, rather than 100 locations throughout the state.
  • Central issuance makes it more difficult to forge or tamper with DLs or IDs by producing DLs and IDs that have additional and more sophisticated security features.
  • Central issuance keep DLs or IDs out of the hands of identity thieves by allowing the DOT to complete an image verification process before the final card is issued and delivered. Image verification compares an applicant’s digital photo with other photos in the DOT’s database and looks for matches. If a match is found, the application is referred to a fraud investigator who determines whether the DL or ID may be delivered or should be withheld for further investigation or prosecution. Image verification has proven very effective, but it cannot be completed while a customer waits.

Central issuance is an established process that has proven to be successful and secure.  Twenty-two other states currently deliver DLs and IDs this way. A number have done so for many years, while others have recently made the switch for reasons similar to Iowa’s. (For instance, Minnesota has issued centrally for more than 35 years, while Nebraska just made the change to central issuance last summer. Other states using central issuance include Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.)

Kim Snook, director of the Iowa DOT’s Office of Driver Services, stated, “It’s difficult to misuse a validly issued DL or ID because the photo makes it hard for another person to pass it off as his or her own. The real risk is that a person will get a DL or ID that has his or her photo on it, but is in another person’s name or a false name. Central issuance reduces that risk.  As a result, Iowans are better protected from identify theft and other fraud, as well as from drivers who are not legally authorized to drive.”For more information, log on to