Commentary: Upgrade to REAL ID

Commentary: Upgrade to REAL ID

Get ready, my fellow Virginians, starting Oct. 1 we will have the opportunity, if we wish, to “upgrade” our driver’s licenses or state issued IDs to be REAL ID compliant. What that means is that if you want to board a domestic commercial flight or enter a secure federal agency building you will be able to do so with your new REAL ID compliant card. Note, this is voluntary and frankly, nothing changes for the next two years. So, if your current license is expiring within that two-year window you may want to wait and update it then. But, if you are going to get a new one soon anyway, it may be a good idea to upgrade to the REAL ID and spend the extra $10.

The Federal Government passed the REAL ID Act to create nationwide authentication and security standards of state-issued forms of identification for official purposes such as boarding a commercial flight, or entering a secure federal facility. REAL ID compliant cards will appear mostly the same as current licenses and IDs with one key difference, non-compliant ID cards will say “Federal limits apply” while compliant cards will have a star in the upper right-hand corner to indicate compliance. A REAL ID compliant credential can be used for all the same purposes as a current state issued ID — including driving and voting, but they can also be used as identification for federal purposes. However, that won’t be necessary until Oct. 1, 2020. Until then, Virginians will be able to use their current driver's license or state ID. After that, you will need a REAL ID driver’s license to board a flight or enter a secure federal facility, etc. ... This two-year window is to give us ample time to update our identification before the Federal requirement is made permanent.

To get your new REAL ID you must apply in person at the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you would rather not travel outside of our community to find a DMV, you can utilize the once a month mobile DMV 2 Go program at Sherwood Regional Library. The program began in 2017 after I urged the DMV to come to the library on a monthly basis as a convenience to the elderly and other constituents. The current 2018 schedule for the mobile DMV 2 Go program is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 23, Nov. 8 (inside the library), and Dec. 18.

To be REAL ID compliant you must provide supporting documentation including proof of identity, legal presence in the U.S (passport, birth certificate), social security card, residency proof (two proofs required, such as utility bills or mortgage statements) and proof of any name changes you may have had such as a marriage certificate or a divorce decree. To purchase a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or REAL ID compliant non-driving type ID card you will have to pay a one time fee of $10 in addition to the standard $32 fee for a driver’s license or $16 for a non-driving ID, and these are good for eight years. After that, you can renew online on the DMV’s website. If you are not due to renew your driver’s license or ID card prior to October 2020 and still want a REAL ID compliant card, you will need to pay a $20 replacement card fee in addition to the $10 one time REAL ID fee.

Purchasing a REAL ID is completely optional. If you do not wish to purchase a REAL ID you can always use other forms of ID to board a plane or to enter a secure Federal facility after Oct. 1, 2020, such as a valid passport or military I.D. To view the full list of acceptable identifications please visit the Virginia DMV website or view the TSA guidelines at the Department of Homeland Security website.

While this purchase is not mandatory, I would recommend seriously considering it if you travel often or need frequent access to federal facilities or military bases, as many of us do who live near Ft. Belvoir. This alleviates the risk of constantly carrying your passport around and potentially losing it. Remember, the process for getting a new passport is longer and more expensive than getting a new license. For more information about REAL ID please visit And, if you are at all confused by this please don’t hesitate to contact my office at It is my pleasure to be of service as your representative to the Virginia House of Delegates.