Terry McLaughlin: Getting ahead of the DMV line for REAL ID
Our days of flying domestically using only our California driver’s license as identification are numbered, unless we obtain a new REAL ID.
In 2005, the REAL ID Act established nationwide requirements for state ID’s as a post-9/11 security measure. The original deadline to implement the new regulations passed in 2016, but a number of states, including California, were granted extensions until October 2020.
By October 1, 2020, every California air traveler will require a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel, as well as to enter federal government buildings. If you are a resident of California and do not possess a REAL ID by October 1, 2020, you will be required to present a valid passport for domestic air travel.
In anticipation of this new requirement, my husband and I contacted the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to obtain our new REAL IDs. It is highly recommended that you make an appointment at your local DMV office to alleviate long wait times. An appointment can be easily made online at http://www.dmv.ca.gov. We found that available appointments were being scheduled approximately two months from the time of contact. As the October 2020 deadline approaches, the number of persons requesting appointments will undoubtedly increase and the wait time will likely increase as well.
As the date of your appointment approaches, you will be asked to complete an online questionnaire, providing information such as your legal name, address and contact information, current driver’s license number, Social Security Number, and any additional names under which you may have been issued a California driver’s license. Upon completion of that form, you will be provided with a confirmation number which you can take with you to your DMV appointment. This number will enable the DMV representative to instantly access your information and speed up the entire process.
You must bring certain original documents with you when you visit the DMV. Your original or certified U.S. birth certificate, or your valid Passport is required as proof of identity for U.S. citizens. Non-citizens must present an employment authorization document, permanent resident card, or foreign passport with a valid U.S. visa and approved I-94 form. If the name on your identity document is different than the name on your REAL ID application, you must bring with you a name-change document such as a certified marriage certificate or divorce decree.
Proof of your Social Security Number is required in the form of a SSN card or a W-2 or paystub with your full SSN listed. Two documents must be presented as proof of California residency. You must assure that your name and your address appear on the documents you present. These documents could be home utility bills, vehicle registration information, mortgage or lease agreements, property tax bills, or bank account statements. A utility bill with only your spouse’s name on it will not suffice! If you fail to bring any of the necessary documents, the Department of Motor Vehicles will be unable to process your application.
Note that when completing your application for a REAL ID, you will be asked to complete a few questions about your voting status. If you meet the legal requirements for voter registration but fail to explicitly state that you do not want to register or re-register to vote, you will be automatically registered, and regardless of your current political party affiliation, your re-registered voter status will be as No Party Preference.
On the day of our appointments, my husband and I appeared at the Grass Valley DMV office about 10 minutes early, with all of the proper documentation in hand. We were each directed to a different DMV representative, who handled our requests quickly and efficiently. We were pleasantly surprised that the entire process took less than 25 minutes, and after providing a payment of $28 each to the DMV, we left with instructions to look for our new REAL ID cards in the mail in about two weeks. Those new REAL ID/driver’s licenses arrived in our mail in less than two weeks.
Kudos to the Grass Valley DMV for making the process relatively painless, easy and quick. You can have a similar experience if you prepare all of the appropriate documents in advance, complete the online questionnaire, and most importantly, make an appointment!
If you are unable to obtain a REAL ID prior to the October 1, 2020 deadline for air travel, you will be required to bring your passport with you to the airport in order to pass through security. If you don’t have a passport, there is some urgency in obtaining one prior to October 2020, as the State Department has warned of longer-than-usual passport processing times in recent years. This first happened in 2017 after a large number of passports expired. The year 2017 was 10 years after the United States first required passports for travel to Canada and Mexico, when a large number of citizens acquired passports for the first time. The State Department anticipates that the REAL ID deadline of October 1, 2020 could cause another spike in passport applications, so it is recommended that if your passport is expiring any time soon, it is best to renew early.
It’s important to keep in mind that some international travel destinations require a passport which is valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry, so you should plan your next adventure accordingly.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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