The United States has embarked on a massive effort to create a secure digital driver’s license system by early 2008 but some experts warn that the plan may be hugely expensive and lead to chaos.

Congress passed the Real ID Act last May and gave states three years to implement it. It laid out minimum national standards for licenses, which will have to include a digital photo, anti-counterfeiting features and machine-readable technology.

States will have to verify all documents presented to support license applications, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards and utility bills, with the issuing agency, and will be required to link their license databases so they can all be accessed as a single network.

States will also be required to verify that a person applying for a license is in the country legally. They will have the option of issuing a separate credential to illegal aliens so that they will still be able to drive.

All but 11 states now require that drivers licenses be issued only to citizens or legal residents, but many do not verify applicants’ identities.

“This law has the potential for huge bureaucratic and technical problems,” said Cheye Calvo of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“This law was written by people who didn’t take the time to understand how these things are done and didn’t even hold any congressional hearings,” he said.

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