Written by Teresa Le-Vu, Rachel Novick, Tracy Wang, and Elizabeth Bynum Sorrell
Getting identification documents can be challenging. You may need to provide additional information, complete paperwork, or interact with an agency in person. While the process of securing identity documents can feel overwhelming, having the right type of identification can unlock important resources and opportunities. On this page, you’ll find resources to help you access different identity documents, from both Wisconsin and federal government agencies.
Who issues a birth certificate? This depends on the state. For births that took place in WI, the Wisconsin Vital Records Office stores and issues birth certificate records. For more information on accessing birth certificates if you were born outside of WI, visit USA.gov.
What can I do with this document? Birth certificates may be requested or required to get other identification documents, like a Driver’s License.
What information do I need to provide to access this document? In Wisconsin, you can provide a photo ID, or other evidence of your identity, like a utility bill, or vehicle registration. If you don’t have photo ID or other evidence of your identity, you can sign a statement allowing someone else to apply for your records on your behalf.
How much will it cost? $20 for the first copy in Wisconsin.
How can I request or apply for this document: You can request a birth certificate online, over the phone, or by mail from the WI Vital Records Office. You can also apply in person at the Vital Records Office in Madison, WI or at a Wisconsin county Register of Deeds office.
State Level Documents
WI Driver License
Issuing Agency: Wisconsin Department of Transportation
What can I do with this document? Legally drive, provide photo ID for voting in WI, or prove your age or identity in other settings.
What information do I need to provide?
To get a WI Drivers’ License for the first time, or if you already have a valid drivers’ license from another state, you may need to provide:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship, legal permanent resident status, conditional resident status or temporary visitor status
- Proof of name and date of birth
- Proof of identity
- Proof of Wisconsin residency
- Your Social Security number (you can fulfill your proof of identity requirement by presenting your Social Security card)
How much will it cost? $28-50
Where can I apply? Depending on whether you’re renewing a WI Drivers’ license or applying for a WI drivers’ license for the first time, you may need to apply in person at a DMV location or you may be able to apply online. You can use the WI Drivers’ License Guide to figure out what applies to your situation.
WI Identification (ID) Card
Who issues a WI ID Card? Wisconsin Department of Transportation
What can I do with this document? A Wisconsin state ID card is different from a WI Driver’s License. It cannot be used to legally drive, but can be used for voter identification. It can also be used in other settings to verify your age or document who you are.
What information do I need to provide to access this document? If you already have a WI Driver’s License, you can turn that in to get a WI ID Card. If available, you can also provide:
- Proof of Name and Date of Birth (such as Birth Certificate)
- Proof of Identity (Social Security Card, Medicaid/Medicare Card, etc.),
- Wisconsin Residency (Utility bill, government mail, lease, etc.),
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship (U.S. Birth certificate or citizenship paperwork),
- Social Security Number.
If you don’t have all or any of these, you can still get an ID for voting. You should bring all the information/documentation you do have with you to the DMV.
How much will it cost? State of Wisconsin ID cards are available for free, just check the “Free ID for voting purposes” box on the application form.
Where can I apply? If you do not already have a WI driver’s license or state ID card, you must apply in person at the DMV. If you already have a driver’s license or state ID card, you may be able to apply online or by mail.
Additional info: You cannot have both a drivers’ license and a WI state ID card. Wisconsin also allows its residents, who are U.S. Citizens age 65 and over, to get a state ID card which never expires. The Dane County Voter ID Coalition also helps individuals access a photo ID.
Social Security Number/Card
Who issues a Social Security Number/Card? The Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA assigns social security numbers (SSNs) to US citizens, permanent residents, and eligible nonimmigrant workers in the US. Your SSN is issued via a social security card.
What can I do with this document? Your social security number (SSN) can be used to file taxes and track social security benefits. You may also need to provide your SSN to obtain credit, open a bank account, apply for government benefits, and complete hiring paperwork, among other things.
What information do I need to provide to access this document? Whether you are applying for a social security number for the first time, requesting a replacement social security card, or updating your information on your social security record (like a name change), you will need to complete an application and provide documentation about your identity. You can use this tool from the SSA to determine what documents you may need.
How much will it cost? It is free to get a Social Security card.
Where can I apply? In some cases, you may be able to apply for a replacement card online. For other applications, you’ll need to visit a Social Security office in person. Find a list of offices online.
Who issues a passport? The U.S. State Dept
What can I do with this document? If you’re a US citizen, a passport allows you to travel outside the United States. You can also use your passport as a photo ID in other situations.
What information do I need to provide to get this document? If applying for a passport for the first time, you’ll need an original, certified copy of one of the following pieces of citizenship evidence, U.S. birth certificate, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, or a Certificate of Naturalization or, Certificate of Citizenship. You’ll also need a photocopy of the citizenship document you use, as well as photos for your passport that meet specific requirements.
How much will it cost? $165, if you’re applying for an adult passport book for the first time. Cost varies depending on age of the person applying, and the type of passport they’re applying for.
If you’re located in Madison, WI, and in need of support to access immigration documents or navigate your immigration status, there are local agencies that may be able to help, including:
- Community Immigration Law Center cilcmadison.org | (608) 640-4444
- Centro Hispano of Dane County micentro.org | (608) 255-3018
- Catholic Multicultural Center cmcmadison.org | (608) 661-3512
- Jewish Social Services jssmadison.org | (608) 442-4081
- RISE Law Center risewisconsin.org | (608) 256 -1015
- UW-Madison Law School’s Immigration Justice Clinic law.wisc.edu/eji/ijc/ | (608) 890 -3753