City Desk

Everything You Need to Know About D.C.’s New, Federally Mandated Drivers’ Licenses

The District's Department of Motor Vehicles will start issuing new federally mandated drivers' licenses on May 1. While the thought of every D.C. resident rushing at once to the DMV is more anxiety-inducing than a panda birth, the government says the new IDs will be phased in gradually over the next few years.

The D.C. DMV has a pretty handy FAQ on how it will start rolling out the new licenses, which are called REAL ID credentials. But if you're so DMV-averse that you don't want to read it, here's everything you need to know about the new cards.

What's all this talk about new federal requirements that render my current D.C. license useless?

In 2005, Congress passed the "REAL ID Act," which mandated that state-issued licenses follow certain federal guidelines. These new guidelines are a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, according to DHS. The act prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses from states (or, ahem, the District of Columbia) that don't meet minimum security requirements. Some states were already in compliance when the act was passed, but D.C. wasn't one of them.

What are these requirements? Will my ID have a tracking device?

Nope, no tracking device—at least nothing of that sort is explicitly mentioned. The new requirements affect what you need to bring to the DMV in order to obtain your new ID. Residents will need to present an identification document with their full name and date of birth, proof of a Social Security account or documentation proving they're not eligible for a Social Security account, and documentation showing D.C. residency. If you aren't a citizen, you must bring in documentation proving you're a legal resident.

Do these requirements apply to people who already have a D.C. license?

Yep, this applies to new and old license-holders alike.

Am I locked out of all federal buildings if I don't have this new ID by May 1?

Not even close. In December, DHS announced that it would implement the REAL ID Act in four phases. This month, people seeking to get into restricted areas of DHS buildings will need the new ID. And in July, people will need these IDs to enter all restricted areas in federal facilities and nuclear power plants. (In other words, these first two phases don't apply to most people.)

In October, DHS will start notifying the public that the REAL IDs will be required to get into all semirestricted federal facilities by Jan. 19, 2015. Depending on how the implementation of these first three phases go, DHS says it will determine when people will need to have these IDs to board a plane. This won't happen before 2016. And even if you don't have this new ID by this undetermined time, you can still present a passport to get through security.

What about the Smithsonian and federal buildings that don't require showing an ID to enter?

The act doesn't force federal facilities to request identification. So, unless the Smithsonian changes its rules, feel free to go to the museums with no ID in hand.

When should I go to the DMV to get this new license?

The D.C. DMV will start issuing the new licenses on May 1. Over the next 24 months, it will notify D.C. residents by mail or email to make an in-person appointment to get a new license.

OK, so how much is this going to cost me?

This federally sanctioned ID can be all yours for free. If you lose your license or are renewing your license, then typical license fees will apply (that's $44.) If you want to get the REAL ID before the DMV notifies you to do so, then you'll have to pay the fee. But if you don't need to renew your license and simply go in when you're notified, you won't have to pay.

I don't want to go into any federal facilities, I just want to drink!

Your license will still be valid in D.C. until it expires. Although you may not be able to get into federal facilities, the license will still be valid for other purposes. Starting May 1, however, the D.C. DMV will only be issuing REAL IDs. So once your ID expires, you'll get one of the new ones whether you want it or not.

D.C. just got these spiffy new designed licenses. Will the new licenses look the same?

Although City Paper was hoping the DMV would use this new mandate as an opportunity to issue a license with one of our staff's suggested designs, (Marion Barry-themed license, anyone? Anyone?) the DMV says the REAL IDs will look the same as the current ones. The only difference is that they'll have a star in the upper right corner.

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  • Sancho

    I might be just spitballing here, but I'm thinking you want to change the title to "Everything you need to know" not new. Unless of course it is some play on words.

  • Andrew

    Will we have to take a new picture?

  • Corky

    Will they have THAT guy's picture on them? lol

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  • http://www.FreeDC.org Anise Jenkins

    Is the single star meant to symbolize our 51st star for DC Statehood? (... and your reference to MB is another serious indication of the City Paper's obsessive compulsion disorder)

  • The Black Republic

    New Hampshire is a republic (state) within the 48 which makes up the united States of America and any states outside the District of Columbia is therefore foreign. The United States is a corporation and its headquarters being named District of Columbia.

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