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REAL ID FAQs

What is “REAL ID”?
REAL ID is a coordinated effort by US jurisdictions and the federal US Government to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and identification cards. The improvements are intended to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification. REAL ID implements a 9/11 Commission recommendation urging the US Government to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver licenses.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing REAL ID through a period of phased enforcement over the next several years. 

What does REAL ID require?
The REAL ID Act of 2005 establishes minimum standards for the production and issuance of driver licenses and identification cards and authorizes grants to assist jurisdictions in implementing the requirements. The Act also prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official uses driver licenses and identification cards from jurisdictions unless DHS determines the jurisdiction meets the standards. Official uses are defined as accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircrafts.

Is REAL ID a national identification card?
No. REAL ID is not a national identification card. US jurisdictions will continue to issue driver licenses and identification cards, and there is no federal database of driver information. Each jurisdiction will issue its own unique license and maintain its own records.

What are the different phases of REAL ID enforcement?

Phase Location Enforcement Date
Phase 1 Restricted areas (i.e., areas accessible by agency personnel, contractors, and their guests) for DHS headquarters in the District of Columbia April 21, 2014
Phase 2 Restricted areas for all federal facilities and nuclear power plants July 21, 2014
Phase 3 Semi-restricted areas (i.e., areas available to the general public but subject to ID-based access control) for most federal facilities January 19, 2015
Phase 4 Boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft January 22, 2018 & October 1, 2020*

 

 

 

 

*  Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.  Passengers with driver licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID, such as the District of Columbia, will still be able to use their driver license or identification cards.

*  Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID compliant license, or another TSA acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.

How is a REAL ID credential different from DC DMV’s current credential?
A REAL ID requires DC DMV to revalidate your proof of identity, proof of Social Security number, and proof of residency. It also has a star in the upper right hand corner of the credential. Other than these items, it looks the same as DC DMV’s current credential.

When will the District of Columbia begin issuing REAL ID credentials?
May 1, 2014. However, this date only impacts those residents obtaining a DC license for the first time, those who must renew their licenses, or those who need to replace their licenses due to loss, theft, or an address change. Your existing DC DMV credential will remain valid until its expiration date and will be accepted for federal purposes (such as entering federal buildings and boarding airplanes).

Why is DC DMV making this change?
We are making this change to comply with federal requirements and to ensure our residents will have both access to those limited federal facilities that will require a US passport or REAL ID credential for entrance, and the ability to board airplane (as indicated by the above timeline).

Does REAL ID affect both driver licenses and identification cards?
Yes, it affects ALL driver licenses, permits, and identification cards issued by DC DMV.

Will I have to do anything different to apply for, renew, or replace (i.e., obtain a duplicate) my current driver license, permit, or identification card in order to obtain a REAL ID credential?
Yes. The documents for verifying your proof of identity, proof of Social Security number, and proof of residency have changed. In addition, before DC DMV can issue you a REAL ID credential, we will need to revalidate these documents. However, your existing DC DMV credential will remain valid until its expiration date and will be accepted for federal purposes (such as entering federal buildings and boarding airplanes).

Why can’t I renew or replace (i.e., obtain a duplicate) my driver license or identification card or change my address using DC DMV’s online or by mail services?
In order to issue you a REAL ID credential, we must revalidate your identity, Social Security number, and DC residency—one time. Therefore, you will not be able to use the online or by-mail services until you already possess a REAL ID credential, which is indicated by the star in the upper right-hand corner.

Are other states issuing REAL ID credentials?
You can refer to the link below to the Department of Homeland Security's website for a list of REAL ID compliant jurisdictions.

Is my current license or identification card still valid?
Yes. Your current driver license or identification card is valid until its expiration date and will be accepted for federal purposes (such as entering federal buildings and boarding airplanes).  When you renew your existing credential (which may not expire until April 2020), you will then need to bring in your documents to revalidate your identity, Social Security number, and residency.

Below are links to the documents you will need when it is time to renew your DC DMV license or identification and obtain a REAL ID credential:

What happens if I don’t revalidate my documents and receive a REAL ID credential?
DHS is using a phased approach to determine when a REAL ID credential is necessary for entering some federal facilities and boarding airplanes. However, you will still be able to use your existing DC credential, a US passport, or other documents to do these things, as determined by the individual agencies. Therefore, there is no need for you to visit DC DMV to obtain the REAL ID credential until you need to renew, obtain a duplicate of your credential, or change your address. When this time period occurs, you will need to bring in your documents for revalidation. Links to the documents you will need are available in the answer to the previous question.

How much more does the REAL ID credential cost?
The fees for REAL ID credentials are the same as those for our current credentials. If you need to renew your credential or obtain a duplicate credential (due to loss, theft, or address change), then you will be required to pay the normal fees. You will pay these fees during the necessary in-person visit to provide the additional documentation to obtain the REAL ID credential. More information about DC DMV fees is available at the link below:


Will the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) accept identity documents other than driver licenses/identification cards?
Yes. TSA currently accepts other forms of identity documents such as a passport and will continue to do so.

For more information on acceptable forms of identification for boarding aircraft, please see TSA’s website at the link below:

NOTE:  If you have a REAL ID-related question that is not covered by these FAQs or on other areas of our website, please email us at [email protected]  Also, the link below provides additional information about REAL ID is available on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) website.

REAL ID is not required for the following:

  • Entering federal facilitates that do not require a person to present identification (NOTE:  Many federal facilities in the District have recently eliminated the requirement to show any identification when entering the building.)
  • Voting or registering to vote
  • Applying for or receiving federal benefits
  • Being licensed to drive by a jurisdiction
  • Accessing health or life-preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement, or constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings)
  • Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations