‘It’s not hard, but you need to do it’: Virginia congressman pushes REAL ID sign-up

Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb and Rep. Gerry Connolly tout the importance of getting REAL ID-compliant at a Monday news conference in Dumfries. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Virginia does not require drivers to upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant license, but hundreds of thousands of contractors serving defense and intelligence agencies will need one, so state officials strongly encourage it.

Leading by example, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., applied for his REAL ID-compliant license in Dumfries, Virginia, on Monday.

“I waited in line like everybody else, but I wanted to do it publicly to bring attention to why I need to do it and you need to do it,” Connolly said. “It’s not hard, but you need to do it.”

After October 2020, anyone entering a secured federal facility or boarding a domestic flight will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another form of federally accepted identification, such as a passport.

In addition to the many area military facilities that will require civilians to show REAL IDs, Connolly noted many private sector offices also will do so to comply with federal standards.

“We’re all busy, and so we need a little jog to move this up in the priority list of ‘things I gotta get done,’” he said.


Applicants need to appear in person and bring documents to prove identity, legal presence, residency and Social Security number.

“When is the best time to do it? Let me tell you: Now,” Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said. “Normally, December and January are our slow months … February, March — it picks back up.”

Also at the news conference, Prince William County Supervisor-Elect Andrea Bailey tried to get her REAL ID, but needed to bring back a marriage license to verify her name had changed.

Holcomb said that issue is one of the most common reasons applicants are initially turned away.

Otherwise, the process flows quite smoothly. At the Dumfries office, 61 REAL ID-compliant licenses were processed before lunchtime.

The Dumfries DMV Select office typically only processes vehicle-related issues, but on Monday, it was being visited by one of Virginia’s DMV mobile operations.

“The way the word is getting out, and the feedback from everybody about how simple the process is here in the town of Dumfries, I think this is something we might need to explore doing monthly, or a little more often,” Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood said.

Maryland and D.C. drivers are required to get the REAL ID upgrade.

You can check individual websites for Virginia, Maryland and D.C. for specific guidance or help with the process. And WTOP has answers to frequently asked questions about the process and paperwork needed to get a REAL ID.

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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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