In the US it varies by state. And most people also use their driver's licenses as ID, but a free ID is offered if you can't afford or do not want/need a driver's license.
I live in Indiana and state ID is required to vote, however, under certain conditions like indigence (when you must go before the election board within ten days and swear/affirm you are indigent), religious objection to being photographed, or you live in the institution in which you are required to vote they will forego the ID (you still have to go before the election board to verify those things). Otherwise, the only alternative to state ID is another government issued picture ID, which can come from a public college or university, the military, or you can use your passport. Whatever ID you use it can not have been expired more recently than the last general election.
In order to obtain a state ID (basically a driver's license you can't legally drive with) and you are a citizen you need:
- Proof of identity (usually a birth certificate, but a passport will also work)
If you have lost your birth certificate and you live in my county, you can go to the health department to request a replacement. You must present two forms of ID, one of which must have a photo and it cannot be expired. The other can be just about anything from a paycheck stub to a fishing license. However, if you had a valid photo ID, you probably wouldn't be trying to get a birth certificate so you could get your ID.
- Proof that you are in the United States legally
Usually a birth certificate, but a passport is also okay or whatever documentation you have as someone born outside the US
- Proof of Social Security number (our social security cards are printed on thick paper and do not have photos on them)
You can use your social security card. If you have lost yours you can have it replaced for free. It's at a different office than the locations we've been to so far. You must present your birth certificate and a valid state issued photo ID or passport. If you do not have that you can use Employee ID card, School ID card; Health insurance card (not a Medicare card); or U.S. military ID card. IME, they will also accept a signed letter from your physician stating that you are their patient.
You can apply for this card through the mail, but they will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of your documentation, so I guess you are supposed to send your photo ID and birth certificate through the mail and hope they get them back to you?
Or you can use a W-2 Form (a tax form you fill out for employers so they know how to withhold your payroll taxes), SSA - 1099 Form. (I don't know what this is), A non-SSA - 1099 Form. (I don't know what this is), Pay stub containing the applicant’s name and Social Security number.
- Proof of Indiana residency
Present TWO original documents with your name and Indiana
residential address to establish Indiana residency. Documents must
contain a residential address. A post office box will not be accepted.
• U.S. Postal Service change of address confirmation. (This is easy to get, I *think*)
• An Indiana voter registration card. (You have to have a state issued ID to register to vote)
• Survey of your Indiana property. (Poor people often do not own property)
• Utility company, credit card, doctor or hospital bill issued within
60 days of application. (Poor people often do not have these things)
• Residence mortgage or similar loan contract, or lease or rental contract. (You will have this if you are on the lease where you live, but that is not always the case, especially if you are living in a multi-generational household)
• Bank statement or bank transaction receipt, dated within 60
days of application. (Poor people often do not have bank accounts)
• Current motor vehicle loan payment book. (Poor people often have trouble getting traditional car loans)
• Valid homeowner’s, renter’s, or car insurance policy dated
within one year of application. (May or may not have this if you're poor. Insurance is required in order to register one's vehicle, if you own one. It's often dropped shortly thereafter, so the address may not be current)
• W-2 Form, property tax, excise tax bill, or Social Security Administration or other pension or retirement annual benefits summary statement, dated within current or immediately-prior year. (A working poor person/retired person/disabled person will likely have one of more of these things, but they are usually not issued more than once a year, AFAIK)
• Pre-printed pay stub, dated within 60 days of application. (Depends if the person has been employed that recently)
• Indiana Family and Social Services Administration child support check stub, Medicaid or Medicare benefit statement (A lot of poor people will have one of more of these)
dated within 60 days of application.
• Valid Indiana handgun permit. (I think this can cost as little as $15, but I am not sure of the other requirements)
• First-class mail from any federal or state court or agency, dated
within 60 days of application. (You might have this if you're poor but you sure hope not.)
• Valid and active ID card issued pursuant to the Indiana Attorney
General’s address confidentiality program under IC 5-26.5 I have no idea what this is
- If you have had a name change (this is more common for women, who often take their husband's names) you're going to need some additional documents:
If your current legal name is different from the name on your birth certificate or lawful status document, you must show legal proof of
the name change (showing a link to all name changes) with an original marriage license, divorce decree, or court order. Lawful Status
documents will be verified with DHS.
IOW, what @whatever said.
Edit: I live in a mid-sized city and we do have a public transit system. The routes run every hour. That means unless you happen to live on the same bus route as your destination, you can expect a one-way trip to take about an hour and a half. There is one BMV in the county (403 sq miles, not counting water). It is a block or two from the southern border of the city limits and there is one bus route that goes by it. The Social Security office and the Health Department are both located downtown and there are several bus routes that go through there. It'll still probably take you at least an hour to get there and an hour to get back.
There aren't any other Social Security offices but the one in my town for an hour in any direction by car and there is no public transit outside the city limits (except to go to Walmart of the community college) for the rest of the county or surrounding counties for an hour in any direction. My city is the county seat and has the only place in the county to obtain birth certificates and only for this county. There are other BMVs in the surrounding rural counties, about a half hour or so from my city.