Have you switched to the new Real ID? You might want to do that soon

REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses look just like a regular license but have a star on the upper right. (WYDaily photo/Courtesy Virginia DMV)
REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses look just like a regular license but have a star on the upper right. (WYDaily photo/Courtesy Virginia DMV)

It’s a new year and for many Virginians, that means time for a new license.

Starting in October, those traveling on domestic flights or visiting secure government facilities will encounter some difficulties — if they haven’t switched to Virginia’s new Real ID program.

The new Real ID is similar to the regular Virginia licenses, but will feature a black star in the corner to show that it is compliant with Real ID standards, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Brandy Brubaker, communications project manager with the Virginia DMV, said the new IDs are a result of an act in 2005 which required states issuing driver’s licenses to start using Real ID. Since then, Brubaker said it has been a long process with various steps to get Virginia onto the path of finally issuing Real ID licenses.

Starting in October, anyone who wants to travel domestically on a plane or enter a secure government facility will be required to have a Real ID. If they don’t, the traveler will then have to bring an alternative form of federally-accepted identification, such as a passport.

“Not everyone wants to travel with their passport if they don’t have to,” Brubaker said. “So if you have the Real ID, then you don’t have to worry about it.”

Brubaker said people have the option to either have the Real ID or not. So for new drivers who are just getting their license or learner’s permit, they have the decision to not get the Real ID.

However, Brubaker recommends it because once a resident has a Real ID, they don’t have to worry about the travel issues.

If a resident only has the old form of identification, they will still be able to do the following:

  • Drive
  • Vote or register to vote
  • Verify identify at banks, retail stores or with utility companies
  • Apply for and receiving federal benefits
  • Access health or life preserving services

The new ID looks very similar to old ID cards, with just the black star as the signifying marker. Brubaker said the new symbol isn’t associated with any security technology that is in the card. She added that the Virginia DMV overhauled their security measures on licenses in 2009 so residents will notice the star is the only change.

To switch to the Real ID, Virginia residents have to go into their nearest DMV location and bring either an unexpired U.S. passport or birth certificate in addition to either a Social Security card or W-2 form displaying the applicant’s full Social Security number.

For those renewing their license, the cost will be $32 plus a $10 Real ID fee. If a resident’s license is not expired, they will have to pay a $20 replacement fee in addition to the $10 Real ID fee.

Once that’s done, the resident’s old license will be voided and the DMV will give them a paper license to keep until their Real ID comes in the mail.

Brubaker said the process is fairly simple if people come into the DMV with the proper materials. To prepare, the DMV offers an online service that allows people to check which documents they can bring.

For those who might not have easy access to their DMV location, there will be mobile DMV stations throughout the year that will provide access at libraries and government buildings.

However, Brubaker recommends residents come into the DMV during January because it is a slower month so they’ll be able to complete the process faster.

“Most of all, though, we just want people to come in prepared,” she said. “We want people to look at the website and know what documents to bring so it’ll be easier on them.”

To learn more, visit the Virginia DMV online.

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