*This post has been updated.
There’s no good way to break it to you, D.C. license holders. You’re going to have to make a trip to the DMV, all 540,000 of you.
Starting May 1, the District will start issuing REAL ID licenses that conform to stringent federal regulations, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced last week.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, any driver’s license issued before that date will need to be replaced by Jan. 19, 2015 to enter certain federal buildings (the D.C. DMV’s site incorrectly states that it will begin on Oct. 1, which was the date originally reported) and by 2016 to board a domestic flight. Alternatively, a passport can still be used. All other licenses, permits and identification cards issued by the DMV are also affected by the new regulations.
At the recommended of the 9/11 Commission, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 with the goal of making it more difficult for people to get state-issued IDs using fraudulent means.
Twenty one states have already updated their licenses to reflect the new regulations, including Maryland. Virginia has been granted an extension to become compliant with the law until Oct. 10, 2014.
Although the D.C. DMV changed the design and security features of its licenses in November in anticipation of the REAL ID rollout, licenses issued since then do not have the REAL ID credential, according to Department of Motor Vehicles Director Lucinda Babers.
“The implementation requirements of the two initiatives did not require them to be enacted at the same time,” Babers wrote in an email.
In other words, even if you have one of the updated licenses, which are teal with a blooming cherry blossom tree, you will still need to take a trip to the DMV to update it for a REAL ID. The only visual difference between the two will be a star in the upper right corner.
To avoid a worse-than-usual crush, the agency will “individually notify residents when they need to visit a service center and present the required documents,” according to Babers. Residents who have been notified by letter or email will not be charged a fee to convert their licenses.
But those who want to update their license before receiving notification will have to pay regular license fees.
Once at the DMV, residents will have to present certain identifying documents to revalidate their identity, social security number and address to obtain the new credential.
For those seeking to avoid the lines, the re-opening of Georgetown’s service center on April 29 should help, as should this handy cheat sheet for when to avoid the DMV.
And on the upside, maybe now TSA agents will be less confused about whether or not they can accept licenses from D.C.?
Still have questions? Check out this handy FAQ.