• The Star Staff

DTOP: Laminated Social Security cards now accepted as valid

By John McPhaul


After receiving the approval of the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to relax some requirements regarding requests for licenses and identifications in Real ID format by U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico, island Transportation and Public Works Secretary (DTOP by its Spanish acronym) Carlos Contreras Aponte ordered that laminated Social Security cards be accepted as valid starting Wednesday.

Contreras Aponte also approved a resolution that extends the validity of all driver’s licenses and sworn statements required to conduct transactions at the island’s Driver Service Centers (CESCO by its Spanish acronym).

“For years we have seen how thousands of citizens have faced problems completing transactions at the CESCOs because their Social Security card is laminated and, by DTOP regulation, it could not be accepted as valid,” Contreras Aponte said in a written statement. “Although there are other documents that citizens can submit as a substitute for [the] Social Security [card], such as the … W-2 tax withholding form, it never made sense to us that the Social Security card was not accepted just because it was laminated.”

“At the same time, this limitation is incompatible with the CESCO 2.0 model, which has allowed us to serve hundreds of thousands of citizens quickly, safely and without queues in just over three months,” he added. “It is not acceptable that in the historic time in which we live, when we have transformed the CESCOs and made applications such as Digital CESCO available to the people to make their lives easier, a single document, which does not change at all due to the fact that it is laminated, can result in a headache for citizens.”

The clear plastic cover should not affect the readability of the Social Security card, the DTOP chief noted.

Contreras Aponte said he requested a legal opinion and consulted with the DHS, which gave him the go-ahead, for which, by means of a resolution, he authorized the acceptance of Social Security cards for both license and identification transactions in regular format or as Real ID, even if they are laminated, as long as their readability has not been compromised.

With the approval of Resolution Number 2020-26, effective as of Thursday, in addition to approving the aforementioned provisions in relation to the Social Security card, the secretary established that “all categories of driver’s licenses and identification cards whose original expiration date corresponds to the months of June, July, August, September, October, November and December 2020, will have an automatic extension of six months from their original expiration date.”

The resolution also provided that “the computation of the 30-day term to renew the license or identification card or take the practical exam without surcharge, will be counted from the expiration date, as extended by this Resolution.”

For transactions that require the delivery of a sworn statement, the secretary has increased the term of validity from one to six months, established at the time the statement is signed before a notary public.