Bringing Massachusetts into compliance with federal Real ID Act to impact travel, building access

Want to board a domestic flight without a passport? By no later than 2020, you’ll need to secure a new Massachusetts “Real ID.” Ditto if you want to enter a federal building, or tour the White House.


Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation on Wednesday that aims to bring Massachusetts into compliance with the federal Real ID Act, a post-2001 anti-terrorism effort intend by Congress to improve national security.


While Bay State residents are likely to have several years to update their identification, the Baker administration is seeking to give people ample time to renew their licenses or identification cards before a Massachusetts driver’s license is no longer sufficient to go on a vacation that requires something as routine for many as passing through an airport.


“Current driver’s license holders should not be panicking and thinking their credentials will no longer be recognized,” Registry of Motor Vehicles Registrar Erin Deveney told the News Service.


The governor’s bill would allow the registry to continue to issue non-compliant Massachusetts licenses to drivers who choose to renew their existing license and not appear in person to obtain a “Real ID” from the state, but those IDs after 2020 would no longer be recognized for air travel.
New applicants for identification would also have to obtain a “Real ID” compliant card, which would be marked with a yellow star and require applicants to prove their full legal name, date of birth, residence in Massachusetts and provide a verifiable birth certificate, Social Security number or other proof of lawful residence.


“It becomes a matter of customer choice or convenience,” Deveney said.
While the new IDs will continue to be valid for five years, Baker’s bill gives the registry the authority to issue cards valid for shorter durations to those, such as international students, who may have visas or work permits to be in the country legally for a shorter period of time.
Last October, the Department of Homeland Security issued Massachusetts a one-year extension to become compliant with Real ID, and the state has applied for another extension and expects to hear back before the end of the year. In the meantime, current Massachusetts licenses will be considered valid by the federal government.
Deveney said the state will likely continue to file for extensions through 2020, or until the state comes into full compliance. There are approximately 4.3 million licensed drivers in the Commonwealth.
“We’re trying to give residents as much time to be able to make the choice,” Deveney said.


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