OP-ED

Is a REAL ID license or card right for you?

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December is an important month for many Rhode Islanders as the winter holidays are the times when many people travel to be with their families. It will be an important period this year for the Division of Motor Vehicles as we have begun offering REAL ID credentials to Rhode Islanders, something that will be a useful carry-on for air travelers in the coming years.

Come October 2020, a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card will provide an additional level of security that will allow it to be used for such activities as boarding a domestic flight or entering certain federal facilities. States have been gradually introducing REAL ID licenses since the federal government established new identification rules in 2005 for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. Massachusetts began its REAL ID program in March, we began ours Dec. 3.

We urge drivers not to rush in for a REAL ID until their current one expires. If you have a passport, we recommend that you use that to fly domestically until your license is ready for renewal. Drivers will still be able to use their passports or other federal identification to board flights after October 2020. All existing Rhode Island licenses and IDs will be valid for flying and federal purposes through Oct. 1, 2020.

While the federal government requires the DMV to offer REAL ID credentials, it’s important to remember that this is a voluntary program for drivers and people who need ID cards and licenses.

REAL ID establishes document and security protocols to produce driver’s licenses and state ID cards, including the use of features to prevent illegal copying or altering. Many of you already have a driver’s license or ID card that incorporates these physical security features. We began issuing these types of credentials in mid-2016. You know you have one if your license or ID has a drawing of the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge and a sailboat on it.

We took the next major step toward implementing the REAL ID program a year later, with the launch of our new computer system. That system, coupled with stricter internal security measures, put us one step closer to issuing credentials that comply with the federal rules that are part of REAL ID.

The next step involves you – and a decision for you to make.

You can opt to keep a standard license/ID and use a passport in situations where the former won’t be accepted.

If you think a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card is right for you, whether because you travel frequently by air or are just dreaming of a getaway vacation somewhere in the U.S., then start preparing for your next license renewal.

You will have to visit a DMV or AAA office (if you’re a AAA club member and a U.S. citizen) to get a REAL ID-compliant credential. You cannot get a REAL ID credential by ordering it online.

When you go to renew your license or state ID card you must bring many documents with you – an official copy of your birth certificate with a raised seal or stamp (no photocopies) or a valid passport, your Social Security card or certain documents with your Social Security number on it, as well as other records. If your name is different from what’s on your birth certificate, you’ll need to bring in certified name-change document(s), such as your marriage license or court order. For a complete list, visit www.dmv.ri.gov/realid. You will have to bring in these documents – even if you’ve had a license for decades.

We recognize that people may be frustrated by the extra effort they must make to get a REAL ID. We take that concern seriously and are working to limit the time it will take you to get served at the DMV. We have begun hiring extra staff to reduce the time and trouble this may cause our customers.

We also understand that some people may have privacy concerns about these new ID requirements. We safeguard your personal information and we don’t act as an immigration office – that’s a federal function.

Please be assured we are doing everything we can to make this process as efficient as possible.

To find out more about this new option, visit www.dmv.ri.gov/realid to read up on REAL ID, watch for further announcements, and prepare yourself should you decide to renew your license as a REAL ID.

Walter R. “Bud” Craddock is the administrator of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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