If you plan to get on an airliner later this year and don’t yet have the new Real ID driver’s license, you’d best get to your nearest license center pronto.
Beginning on Oct. 1, those without the new license, or a passport, won’t be able to board a domestic flight.
Officials from the Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services division told lawmakers the crush of applications coming in for Real ID means they are unlikely to get the licenses to everyone who applies prior to Oct. 1.
Only about 13% of residents already have the new license. Others have passports, which also can be used for domestic flights. Still, only about half of Minnesotans have identification that will allow them to board a plane.
For those who have no trips planned for the next year or so, there is no pressure to apply for the Real ID. But many residents need to get the process rolling sooner than later.
The state’s problems of fulfilling Real ID request are mostly self-inflicted. Too many drivers have procrastinated. But what really complicated the issue was politics in the Legislature.
The federal government passed the Real ID law in 2005 in response to the 9/11 attacks. The idea was that people would be better screened while applying for the new driver’s license by presenting several documents to prove who they are, thus making flying safer for all.
While every other state passed a law to comply, Minnesota dawdled, not approving a Real ID law until 2017. Some used the bill to raise issues about undocumented immigrants getting a driver’s license.
But the Real ID law helps ensure that only those with lawful citizenship status get the new license. People must provide verified proof of birth, residence, Social Security numbers and lawful citizenship status.
Some state lawmakers have said they would be willing to work with DVS to pass a law that would help ease the licensing process. One idea is to rewrite some of the requirements on documents. For example, many people laminate their Social Security card but that isn’t allowed for proof of someone’s Social Security number because it’s considered an “altered” document. If lawmakers can ease the process while still ensuring it’s secure, they should.
And for those seeking a Real ID, they should pre-apply online and understand the documents needed.
State officials think they will be able to get Real IDs in time to people who apply in the next few months. But those who want to fly next fall and winter have no reason to push the deadline.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MANKATO FREE PRESS