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1 million Maryland drivers with state-issued Real ID licenses still are not compliant

A sample Maryland driver’s license. The star in the upper-right corner signals that it is a Real ID license. (Maryland Department of Transportation)

About 1 million Maryland residents have failed to meet requirements to be in compliance with the Real ID Act, a federal law designed to tighten security for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification. And more than 50,000 of those residents could have their licenses recalled as soon as this month if they don’t file the required paperwork, officials said.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration began issuing Real ID licenses and identification cards in 2016, under a process approved by the federal government, MVA officials said. However, a year later, the Department of Homeland Security notified the state that all drivers who had the new Real ID card would also need to have copies of the documents that prove their identity and U.S. residency on file with the MVA.

MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said 1 million drivers with Real ID licenses — identified by a star in the upper-right corner — don’t have the necessary documentation on file. The state has issued deadlines for those drivers to return to the MVA with the required documents or risk having their licenses placed on a recall list.

“We don’t want people to panic. We just really want to encourage them to come in,” Nizer said.

The 52,000 immediately at risk are among a group of about 80,000 Marylanders required to present additional documentation to the Motor Vehicle Administration by June but have failed to respond despite multiple warnings since December, the state said.

This first group of drivers face deadlines of June 5, 12 or 18. Failure to comply means your license could be confiscated by a police officer if you are pulled over for any reason, Nizer said.

“Law enforcement can take your license, confiscate it, and return it to us. You will then be in a situation of having to come to us anyway and provide the documents,” she said. “We don’t want anybody in that situation.”

TSA warns air travelers that the Real ID deadline will be here before you know it

About 2.4 million Real ID license holders in Maryland have met the requirements, the state said. MVA officials said more notices will go out this summer and fall as the state scrambles to get everyone holding a Real ID in compliance before a hard national deadline of Oct. 1, 2020.

Congress passed the Real ID Act after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The law, which is intended to prevent identity fraud, sets minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs. Applicants are required to provide proof of identity and legal U.S. residency to obtain the new ID.

Eighteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers obtained state IDs, some fraudulently.

Beginning in fall 2020, the only driver’s licenses that will be accepted for purposes such as boarding commercial flights will be those that meet federal Real ID requirements. Enforcement at federal buildings and military bases began in 2014.

DHS says that most states are already in compliance with the new requirements and that every state has a more secure driver’s license than before the law was passed.

But the compliance process has not been easy. Some requirements have made visits to the DMV even more difficult than usual. People have struggled with obtaining the documents needed, such as original birth certificates and Social Security cards.

The District began issuing Real IDs in 2014 and has been replacing old licenses with the new credentials since. Virginia began issuing the new Real ID license last fall and is working to replace as many as 2.7 million driver’s licenses before October of next year. The massive undertaking has resulted in longer lines and wait times at its DMV offices. As of last week, Virginia had issued 363,000 Real IDs.

Officials say the key to making the process less painful is showing up prepared — with the proper documents.

Virginia begins issuing driver’s licenses that will be required for air travel in 2020

In Maryland, the MVA website has a lookup tool that people can use to check whether their file is missing documents. It also provides a checklist of documents needed and facilitates making an appointment at the MVA.

The required documents include one proof of identity, one proof of your Social Security number and two proofs of residency.

A U.S. birth certificate or valid U.S. passport can be used as proof of identity. You can provide your original Social Security card or a W-2 or SSA-1099 to prove a Social Security number; and proof of residency can be shown with documents such as a bank statement, insurance card, vehicle registration, utility bill, or mail from a federal, state or local government agency.

Maryland officials urge residents to make an appointment, which guarantees a wait time of 15 minutes or less.

The process of obtaining the Real ID credential can be time-consuming and tedious, especially because only original versions or certified copies of the required documents are accepted, said John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. But the process could become even more difficult in coming months.

While the MVA routinely has about 10,000 license renewals a month, the number of appointments in the Real ID process could spike to 100,000 monthly as the 2020 deadline approaches, he said.

His advice: Start compiling your documents now.

“Most people don’t understand how long it is going to take to compile that information,” Townsend said. “Do it as quickly as possible, or there will be consequences.”

Virginia among states scrambling to comply with federal Real ID law

Gary Hayman, a retired Air Force major from Greenbelt, got his Real ID last month when his driver’s license was due for renewal. A Maryland license holder since 1970, Hayman said the process wasn’t as difficult as he thought it would be.

He used the document checklist on the MVA’s website as a guide and made an appointment.

“I was very surprised how easy it was,” said Hayman, who received his new license a week later. “I didn’t even have to stand in line, which is unusual.”

To meet Real ID demand, Maryland has added thousands of appointments, extended hours of operation and hired 100 staff members to handle the additional crowds.

Last week, it added trailers at a Baltimore-area MVA to add 224 more Real ID appointments. The MVA offers 3,200 appointments daily, statewide.

“The appointment is the secret,” Hayman said. “I arrived on time, and the whole procedure took about 15 minutes.”