Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation Thursday to create municipal ID cards for New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.
The card allows the city to issue its own identification cards to any New Yorker.
The city hopes that the cards will be able to use to apply for jobs, rent apartments and even open bank accounts.
Immigrants in the country illegally and homeless New Yorkers in particular are expected to benefit the most. Cardholders will be able to use the IDs to sign up for city services.
The mayor signed the bill at a ceremony held outside the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights.
"We know that there are, of course, a number of people who do have an ID, but for those who don't, they live a different life, and they don't have access to some of those things that are so important," de Blasio said.
The City Council approved the bill in late June.
New York joins San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut, two cities that already have municipal ID programs.
It is still unclear what the card will actually allow New Yorkers to do. Officials said they have begun talks with banks about accepting the ID, but they did not offer the names of any companies that have agreed to embrace it.
"We're working really closely with the private sector to ensure the card is accepted by a range of different private entities," said Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of immigrant affairs.
Cardholders who are 21 and older may also have trouble using the card to buy alcohol, since the state, not the city, is in charge of alcohol sales.
The city is still determining which documents must be submitted to prove residency, and while the card will be free the first year, officials said the fee for the future is still being worked out as well.
Despite the unresolved details, the mayor said the ID will help many New Yorkers.
"You've got a huge number of people who do not have an ID in this city, and I think there's so many problems that come with it, so many lost opportunities, so many difficulties for people, and we don't want that for our people," de Blasio said.
The mayor anticipates that the ID card program will begin in January.