Ah, good old government – more often than not, the cause of long lines, hefty fees, inconvenience, frustration, and a couple good curse words for citizens just trying to follow the rules.
You know it’s already a hassle to get to an airport and board a plane, but government thrives on hassling its citizens in the name of keeping us safe, so it’s about to get even more frustrating.
Those of us who like to travel are about to find a few more hoops we have to jump through to board a plane — and like everything the government touches, the process is already being described as “chaos.”
“We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that in order to fly a commercial airline in the United States after October 1, 2020, you’ll need a “Real ID.”
This is different than the “non-real” IDs we’ve all spent hours acquiring over the course of our lives at our local Departments of Motor Vehicles. And they’re much different than the fake IDs of our youth.
Those who have already become “compliant” with the federal law are describing their frustration levels as being close to DEFCON One after going through the process of getting their Real ID cards.
Maybe that’s why two-thirds of the country still have not yet taken steps to get these new forms of identification.
Not only is it human nature to procrastinate on things we don’t want to do in the first place, like going to the dentist, filing our taxes, and especially standing in line at DMV, but many of us didn’t realize that this looming deadline existed until recently.
There have been plenty of news reports on Real ID requirements recently but I, for one, don’t remember hearing much of anything about it until late last year.
Interesting, because the Real ID law was passed way back in 2005 – yep, nearly 15 years ago – in an effort to increase transportation security in the years following 9/11.
The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.
Apparently, the states knew we all needed to take care of this matter because they were given deadlines for which their residents had to become compliant.
I guess we all missed the original memo.
But I can prove I’m not the only one in America who is just now starting to think about this, hence the two-thirds of us who have yet to nip this headache in the bud by getting our Real IDs.
Now, of course, we’re all scrambling to figure out just what we need to do before the clock strikes midnight on September 30th. (The good old TSA, in all their glory, even has a ticker on their website counting down the days, hours, and seconds before they’re going to stop us from boarding a plane.)
Before your head explodes, I’ll try to help a little on what you need to know about Real ID. But the most important thing is this: Don’t be the “pro” in procrastination.
Okay, so you already know you have until October 1st of this year to get your Real ID. And for my fellow procrastinators, it’s not really October 1st. It’s whatever time your DMV closes its doors on September 30th.
You will not be allowed to board a plane on October 1st without your Real ID, even if you’re trying to fly to a less crowded DMV in another state to get it.
Now, if you’re like my mother and will never, ever board a plane for the rest of your life, by all means, you can keep your state’s regular-issue driver’s license. And if you’re lucky enough to be young – under the age of 18 – you’re safe. Until you’re 18, that is.
Now, you know that every time you’ve ever gone to DMV to get anything done, you’ve brought your entire file cabinet of documents with you – because if you forget something, you’ve wasted half your day and you have to start all over again.
I know the last thing you want to do is go into your local DMV in the first place. That’s why you always do what you can online (and, even then, at the last minute). But this is not one of those times.
Getting a Real ID means going to DMV in person, although you’ll want to make an appointment (which you can do online) because it’s being reported that lines are already out the door at every DMV in the continental U.S.
But wait, there’s more, so grab that file cabinet!
You’ll need proof of identity, of course. This can be your birth certificate, permanent resident card, military ID, or your U.S. passport.
Bonus tip: You can use a passport to prove your ID to get a Real ID, but if you have a passport, you don’t need a Real ID. You can use your regular driver’s license with your passport at the airport. Same with a Global Entry card. Confused yet?
Then, you’ll need your Social Security card or a W-2 or paystub with your Social Security number on it.
Now that you’ve proven your identity, you’ll have to prove you actually live in the U.S. (Like anyone who doesn’t live here would willingly go through all this.) You’ll want to bring at least two proof of residency documents, like the lease for your apartment or your mortgage statement, utility bills, or a medical document.
And this one’s for us, ladies — as if this wasn’t already enough of a pain. If you’re married, you’ll need a copy of your marriage certificate to prove you took your hubby’s name.
If you’re divorced and keep your ex-husband’s name, you’ll need your marriage certificate and your divorce papers.
And if you’re divorced and remarried, like yours truly, you’ll need those plus your second marriage certificate to prove you went from your maiden name to Hubby #1’s name to Hubby #2’s name.
Basically, proof of any name change over the course of your life is required. This will be bad news for those Hollywood celebs with five or six marriages under their belts.
If you’re lucky – finding all this stuff in the first place and not being turned away for having the wrong stuff — you’ll be rewarded with a gold star, just like in elementary school, in the right corner of your Real ID. That little star is what makes it official.
Yep, there’s more to confuse you.
If you live in Ohio and have a “Legacy” driver’s license, you already have a gold star on your ID. So your Ohio-issued Real ID will have a black cutout star. You can’t make this stuff up.
And if you’re in a state that already issues enhanced driver’s licenses – Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, and Washington State – you can use that and not get a Real ID. These are marked with a flag, not a star.
At this point, I think I’d advise just moving to one of these states. It would be easier.
But if you plan to move in the near future, but not before you need to fly by October 1st, you’ll need to do this again in your new neck of the woods. Real IDs are not transferrable between states. Nice, right?
And then – bear with me; we’re almost done – it is still recommended that you Google your specific state just to make sure there are not separate requirements for your area. Because neither the state or federal governments can make anything easy.
And now, back to the human art of procrastination.
Is the deadline going to stay the deadline?
No one knows. I don’t know, and the government doesn’t know.
Since it took 15 years for any of us to even know this was coming, most of us are just now starting to work on going through all that documentation to find what we need. And then, if we’re honest, most of us will wait until a couple of weeks before the deadline.
DMVs across the country have already hired additional staff and extended their hours to meet increased demand. And people are still waiting… and waiting.
One woman on my local news stated that she made an online appointment and still had to call out of work because she was at DMV for over five hours. This does not bode well for the rest of us.
That’s why representatives from DMVs, the TSA, and airline groups like the Airports Council International North America are telling the federal government to do what they do best – put this off for a while.
According to a statement from ACI-NA President Kevin Burke to NBC, there is going to be a “real crisis” if the government does not extend the deadline past October of this year.
The TSA is already warning that tens of thousands of passengers could be turned away at security because they didn’t have time to get their Real IDs by the deadline.
State DMV offices are saying there is no way they can accommodate all of the appointments being made – that they would have to process multiple IDs per minute, twenty four-seven until October in order to get to everyone by the deadline. Not gonna happen.
The third of all Americans that have gone through the process are angry, frustrated, and upset over their experience in trying to get a Real ID. And they’re probably having a drink right now.
Some agencies are recommending American travelers apply for passports or Global Entry cards now instead. It will cost more but will take a lot less time.
And many of us would pay up the nose to avoid an even worse customer service experience at DMV than we’ve had in the past.
No news yet on a deadline extension, but things are not looking good for any of us at this point.
For now, it’s recommended you get going on getting all those documents together and making an appointment for your Real ID. It’s only going to get worse.
Make sure you’ve got what you need before you go and be prepared for a long wait. And don’t worry if you can’t leave the line to use the restroom. They’ll probably want a stool sample next.