Beat the REAL ID deadline rush: Licensing agencies trying to make it easy

An example of a REAL ID-compliant Maryland driver’s license. (WTOP/Dick Uliano, file)

If there isn’t already a star on your driver’s license indicating it is REAL ID-compliant, your licensing agency wants to see you soon, and they’re trying to make the process more convenient.

Starting in October 2020, you’ll need to show a REAL ID to enter federal facilities and to board domestic flights, unless you show another acceptable form of identification, such as a passport.

Maryland has 55% compliance. The state’s Motor Vehicle Administration has extended hours at many branches and is offering appointments.

“The appointments process has been really popular in Maryland,” said MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer. “Make those appointments, (and we) guarantee to see you within 15 minutes, but we’re meeting about a seven-minute average wait time.”


WTOP guide: What you need to do to become REAL ID compliant before the 2020 deadline


D.C. has nearly 80% compliance. Appointments to get a REAL ID license or ID card are available for District residents whose credentials expire after the October 2020 deadline.

Example of a Virginia REAL ID. (Courtesy Virginia DMV)

“Everyone who expires before then will renew and get a REAL ID during their normal renewal cycle,” said Gabriel Robinson, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Robinson said about 57,000 people carry noncompliant licenses or ID cards that will expire after the deadline. “We’re offering that group an appointment today,” Robinson said.

In Virginia, 1.8 million drivers have not applied for a REAL ID; more than 825,000 are compliant.

Whether it’s on wheels in a renovated recreational vehicle, or set up out of suitcases in a conference room, Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles takes its show on the road to bring services into neighborhoods. You can search by date or location for availability at places such as libraries, universities and businesses.

“We have gone to a large church in Woodbridge, where between 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. on one day, we did 110 REAL ID transactions,” said Richard D. Holcomb, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. “God bless the minster who talked everyone into bringing the right documents.”

All three agency heads gathered Thursday for a news conference with officials from the Transportation Security Administration to hammer home the message that people shouldn’t wait until the last minute, when wait times and crowds will only get worse.

Ron Mildiner, TSA’s deputy federal security director for Reagan National Airport, stressed there will be no exceptions after October 2020: People without REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or another form of acceptable identification will not be boarding domestic flights.

“We absolutely will have to turn people away; it’s the law,” Mildiner said. “Starting Oct. 1, 2020, we will have to enforce that law.”

D.C. and Maryland residents are required to get REAL ID-compliant licenses. In Virginia, REAL IDs are optional, but Holcomb recommends them.

WTOP has answers to frequently asked questions about the process and paperwork needed to get a REAL ID.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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