On Tuesday morning, just about a month ahead of my birthday, I headed to the Registry of Motor Vehicles on the Vineyard in the hunt for my Real ID.
Given the reaction in talking about the Real ID process, it’s clear to me people either don’t know about it or are confused by it. As of Oct. 1, you’ll either need a Real ID or a valid passport to fly domestically or to enter a federal building. The new ID is part of the Real ID Act of 2005, though Massachusetts received a waiver to provide time for implementation. Registry locations in Massachusetts began offering Real IDs in March 2018.
“We don’t want to panic people that they need a Real ID,” Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), said. “People would never need a Real ID [to fly] if they have a valid passport. Some people don’t fly, and don’t have a need to enter a federal building.”
You don’t need the Real ID, but it’s certainly easier to carry than a passport.
There is a slight uptick in the number of people getting Real IDs, according to MassDOT.
As of this month, there are 1,387,504 Massachusetts residents in possession of Real IDs.
Goddard said word from the RMV locations across the state is that people are taking the process in stride. “We recently reached out to the [registry branches], and it’s going well,” Goddard said.
The Real ID costs the same $50 as a standard license renewal, but there are a few more hoops to jump through. No. 1 is that you can’t renew online, though you can start the process there.
In the hopes of enlightening readers more, here’s what you need to know:
There’s an application online that the RMV recommends you fill out ahead of time. This will save you the time and frustration of being sent home only to go back to the RMV again with the proper documentation. (There are certain pieces of identification you need to bring, and this will help you gather them ahead of time; choosing the wrong ones could, potentially, cost you. For example, my wife brought a utility bill that had our address on it, but it was in my name. Fortunately, she had other documents, and the RMV clerk worked with her to find other pieces of identification that would serve as proof. And a word of caution: When you fill out the online application, you commit to bringing those documents. Make sure your name is on it. The online application does not let you go backward or edit.)
Here’s what you’ll need to get your real ID. One of the following:
- A valid U.S. passport
- A certified copy of a birth certificate (I brought both a passport and a birth certificate. Hey, I was once a Boy Scout.)
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad, issued by the U.S. Department of State
- Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card
- Temporary I-551 stamp in foreign passport
- Unexpired employment authorization document issued by DHS
- Unexpired foreign passport with a valid, unexpired U.S. visa affixed
- Certificate of Citizenship
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Re-Entry Permit (I-327)
- Refugee Travel Document (I-571)
You’ll also need one of the following documents:
- A Social Security Card, which cannot be laminated
- A W-2 Form, which cannot be used for both Massachusetts residency and SSN requirements.
- An SSA-1099 Form
- A Non-SSA-1099 Form
- A pay stub with the applicant’s name and full SSN on it, but it cannot be used for both Massachusetts residency and SSN.
- An SSN Denial Notice with passport, visa, and I-94
You’ll need two of the following documents. For a standard ID, you need one.
- A Massachusetts RMV-issued document
- State/federal/municipal/city/town/county agency-issued documents (I used a property tax bill, for example)
- A utility bill with your name and address on it
- A lease or mortgage
- Financial documents (I used a pay stub)
- Financial-related documents
- School-issued documents
- Insurance-related documents
After hearing a lot of anecdotal problems with the process, I was extra-careful making sure I had all my documents, and the RMV made it easy because they give you a checklist based on your answers to the online application. I had a list and checked it twice. (OK, I’m not Santa, I actually checked it like 15 times, and brought more documentation than I really needed.)
In the end, the process was smooth. The most difficult part was that I didn’t follow directions, and moved before the photo for my Real ID was taken. No problem there, the RMV gives you a second chance to smile (and sit) for the camera.
The RMV on the Island is a treasure. Anyone who has ever been to the Plymouth or Yarmouth RMVs would concur. There are no lines, the clerks were super-helpful, upbeat, and even thanked me for being so well-prepared.