Everything you need to know about the D.C. license changeover

The new licenses that D.C. began implementing in November will also have to be updated.
The new licenses that D.C. began implementing in November will also have to be updated.

(This post has been updated)

The news that all D.C. license and other ID holders will need to take a trip to the DMV to replace their documents sparked a collective citywide groan yesterday. And, as with most things DMV-related, there were also questions — many, many questions. Here is what you need to know.

Why do I need a new ID exactly?

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to ensure minimum standards for state-issued identification (more specifically, House Republicans tacked it on to an emergency spending bill without Senate debate, prompting complaints from a number of legislators that it cut short negotiations over the regulations, as well as several attempts to change or repeal it). The goal is to make it more difficult for individuals to fraudulently obtain IDs, as some 9/11 hijackers did.

This passed in 2005, you say. Why am I just hearing about it now?

Enforcement of the new regulations was supposed to be in effect by 2008, but it has been delayed twice. Currently, there are 21 states that are already in compliance with the law and an equal number of states and territories that have been granted extensions, including D.C. and Virginia. D.C. will begin implementing the new regulations on May 1.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would begin implementing the act in stages, starting with the DHS headquarters this month. By July 21, it will be extended to nuclear power plants and restricted areas in all federal facilities. Beginning in October, the agency will notify the public that REAL IDs will be required to enter semi-restricted federal facilities by Jan. 19, 2015.

After those phases, DHS will extend the requirement to flying, but no sooner than 2016. Passports will remain a valid alternative to REAL IDs.

So, this just affects entry into federal facilities and flying?

Correct. Your old license will still be good for voting, driving and bar-entry purposes.

What about getting into the Smithsonian?

You won’t need a REAL ID at museums and other federal facilities that don’t currently require an ID to enter.

When can I get my REAL ID license?

Starting May 1, anyone can go to the DMV to replace a license. But doing so will cost regular license fees ($44 for a driver’s license that is good for eight years) unless you’ve received a letter from the agency.

The DMV will individually notify residents by mail or email over the next two years when they can come to a service center to present their documents at no charge.

What are the required documents?

You will need to verify your proof of identity, proof of social security number and proof of address. A full list of qualifying documents is available here.

Will the REAL ID licenses look different from the old ones?

Depends on which old one you have. If you got a license after November 26, 2013, it will look exactly the same with a star in the right hand corner. If your license is older than that, it will feature the new cherry-blossom design and additional security features.

Can I get a non-REAL ID license anymore?

Not after May 1. All new licenses issued by the D.C. DMV will be compliant with the federal law.

Can I do this online?

Until you have gone to the DMV in person to verify your documents and obtain a REAL ID, you won’t be able to use the DMV’s online services to renew or replace your license.

Does this news change D.C.’s plan to grant licenses to all undocumented immigrants?

The REAL ID Act already influenced D.C.’s plans. Activists and some D.C. Council members had pushed for D.C. to grant the same license to all applicants, but “lawmakers determined that the risks of that approach were too great, citing the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act,” Mike DeBonis reported. Beginning May 1, D.C. will start granting a “limited purpose” license, which doesn’t require proof of a social security number. The only visual difference will be a small legend in the upper right-hand corner that says “Not valid for official federal purposes.”

Earlier: Starting next month, all D.C. licenses will need to be replaced. Yes, all of them. 

 

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Rachel Sadon is the local news editor for Express
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