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What Virginians Need to Know About REAL IDs

Wondering if you should upgrade to a REAL ID? Here’s some information to help you decide.

Whether you live in Leesburg, Hopewell, or somewhere in between, chances are that you’ve heard something about REAL IDs. But if you’re like many Virginians, you may not know whether you really need to apply for one. Here at Burnett & Williams we help our clients navigate difficult situations every day. One thing we know for sure is how important it is to have all of your paperwork and documentation up to date, so that if you are ever in an auto accident or other unexpected situation you’ll be as well prepared as you can be to manage the aftermath. 

Deciding whether to renew your standard driver’s license or apply for a REAL ID-compliant license can feel like a big decision. We’ve heard lots of questions about who needs one, and how to apply for a REAL ID if you decide to get one, so we’ve pulled together some information that we hope will be helpful as you figure out which ID is best for you.

What is a REAL ID and do I need one?

The REAL ID Act is a federal law that affects how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are going to be accepted for federal purposes — things like boarding domestic flights or entering secure military installations or some federal facilities.

Beginning on October 1, 2020, the federal government will require you to present a REAL ID-compliant credential (or another federally approved form of ID) in order to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility.

REAL ID is optional for Virginians.

Here in Virginia you have a few options when it comes to your driver’s licence or ID choice. You can get a REAL ID license, a state-issued REAL ID, or a standard driver’s license or ID. If you choose to stick with a standard license or ID, your ID will have the words “Federal Limits Apply” printed on it, which indicates that it won’t be accepted for purposes such as boarding a flight.

It’s fine to decide against getting a REAL ID, but be prepared that starting on October 1, 2020, you’ll need an alternate form of federally-accepted identification —  like a valid U. S. passport, a U.S. Department of Defense ID, or a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to name a few — for certain things (like boarding a domestic flight) where in the past a regular ID or driver’s license was sufficient. 

Here is the full list of federally-accepted identification, if you choose not to apply for a REAL ID:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

What you need to get a REAL ID.

All applicants for a REAL ID-compliant credential have to apply in person at the DMV, but if you already have a Virginia driver’s license you can start the application process online. There is a $10 charge on top of any standard licence or ID fees when you apply for a REAL ID.

When you present yourself at the DMV you will need a number of documents:

  1. Either an original copy of a US birth certificate or an unexpired US passport.
  2. A Social Security card or a W-2 form that displays the entire SS number.
  3. Any 2 of the following: a valid Virginia driver’s license; a recent utility bill; a mortgage statement; a rental lease agreement displaying your current residential street address.

If you’re still not clear on which documents you’ll need to bring to the DMV to get a REAL ID, you can use Virginia DMV’s convenient Online Document Guide to help sort it out.

In the end, choosing whether or not to invest in a REAL ID Virginia driver’s licence is a personal decision, and one that we hope we’ve helped make a little bit easier for you.