WASHINGTON -- It's about to get REAL in the District.
Starting May 1, the District of Columbia will begin issuing new driver licenses -- called the REAL ID credential -- that comply with exacting federal security standards.
These new cards will be required for official federal purposes, such as entry into federal buildings this fall and, by 2016, boarding flights (a valid passport will also be sufficient).
The current license will remain sufficient for driving and as a form of identification locally.
Bottom line: In the next two years, possibly hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents will be scrambling for a new license.
"On Oct. 1 of 2014, you'll need a REAL ID-compliant credential or a U.S. passport to enter federal buildings," says Lucinda Babers, director of D.C.'s Department of Motor Vehicles. "Since D.C. has a lot of federal buildings, that may impact D.C. residents more."
With the deadline looming, she cautions against a rush to apply in May.
The target demographic, initially, are those who need a renewal credential, a duplicate for change of address, those with lost or stolen licenses and new residents.
All will have to take their documents, including two forms of proof of residency, Social Security number and proof of identity to re-validate the documents.
A knowledge and road test requirement only applies to those seeking a first-time license.
The Department of Homeland Security has implemented REAL ID in part to establish minimum standards for the production and issuance of driver licenses and identification cards.
About 541,000 people currently carry a D.C. driver license, according to the DMV.
To get out the word about the new credential, the DMV has created a special web page. It will also be tweeting, posting messages on Facebook and sending out renewal notices and individual postcards.
Radio and Metro bus advertisements are also in the works.
But with so many people potentially in need of a new card, timing is paramount.
"We will start sending out notification letters to people to let them know we encourage you during [a] particular week to come in, so that we can monitor the flow and the volume," Babers says.
That will go from May 1 this year and continue through May 1, 2015.
The main visual difference between the REAL ID credential and the current one is that the new card will include a star in the upper right-hand corner.
Indeed, the current license is in its last days.
Effective May 1, the only types of credential the DMV will issue will be the REAL ID credential and a limited-purpose credential.
Just in time for the new cards, the Georgetown Service Center is scheduled to reopen April 29.
Maryland offers driver's licenses compliant with the federal law, passed in 2005. Maryland also offers a second tier license for undocumented drivers, which cannot be used to enter federal buildings or board airplanes.
Virginia has been granted an extension to become fully compliant but has made "significant progress" to meeting the standards.
In a statement to WTOP, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says "Virginians will not experience any difficulty in obtaining federal services or access to federal facilities with their Virginia credentials."
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