Let’s Get Real

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The new Real ID driver’s license will have a black circle surrounding a white star in the upper right corner. Standard driver’s licenses will say instead “Federal Limits Apply.” Courtesy www.dhs.gov/real-id.

The good news is that the federal government is taking all the safety measures it can to combat terrorism. The bad news is that, just when you thought life couldn’t get any more complicated, we all need to get new driver’s licenses! Unless you never again plan to fly or enter a government building, or you want to carry your passport at all times, that is. As of October 1, 2020, to board a domestic or international flight or enter a federal building or military installation, the regular state driver’s license you have now won’t cut the mustard. It will have become in a sense “unreal.” You will need the new Real ID, which makes doubly and triply sure that you are you. Real IDs are designated with a black circle surrounding a white star in the upper right corner. 

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The deadline for states to comply with the standards has been pushed back over the years, but the act will go into full effect nationally next October.

“Real ID gives TSA an extra tool in our security toolbox,” said TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. “It improves the accuracy of state-issued IDs. … We are asking for more proof that you are who you say you are” (Daily Progress 7/24/19).

In order to receive a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, you must apply in person at a DMV office. You must show an unexpired passport or birth certificate, social security card, and two proofs of current residency, plus pay a $10 surcharge. Specifically, DMVnow.com lists the following required documents; be sure to take all of these with you to avoid having your application rejected and necessitating a return trip.

Proof of identity, such as an unexpired U.S. passport OR U.S. birth certificate.  

Full Social Security number. The only documents you can use for this requirement are your Social Security card, a W-2 form, OR a 1099 statement.

TWO proofs of current residency/address, e.g. a valid Virginia driver’s license, recent utility bill, bank statement, mortgage or lease agreement, medical or dental bill, or voter registration card. These need to display a current residential street address, not a P.O. box. 

Proof of any name changes, e.g. a marriage certificate or divorce decree.

Note that you are not required to have a Real ID. If you miss the deadline, don’t plan to ever fly or visit a federal building, or simply prefer not to get the new license, your standard state driver’s license will still authorize you to drive, vote, and receive federal benefits. The next time you renew, the license will say “Federal Limits Apply” in place of the star to indicate that it is not Real ID- compliant. In this case, you will need an unexpired passport to board even a domestic flight (kind of a hassle). DMV has offered Real ID appointments at the Charlottesville Center on Hillsdale Drive (formerly the Senior Center) this summer. 

“[The deadline] is going to sneak up on you,” said Farbstein. “It’s going to happen faster than you expect. This is the ideal time to get it.” But be prepared to wait in line! Reports of wait times to show documents and submit a valid application for a Real ID at the Charlottesville DMV office run from one to two hours. The DMV will take a new photo of you, so don’t go on a bad hair day. The Charlottesville DMV office at 2055 Abbey Rd. is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The Waynesboro DMV office at 998 Hopeman Parkway—which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday—is also an option for residents of western Albemarle. For more information, go to dmvNOW.com/REALID. 

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