Newly Issued DC Driver's Licenses Must Comply with Real ID Act Starting Thursday

Change will impact more than 540,000 District residents, DMV estimates.

Come Thursday, May 1, 2014, all current District driver’s license and valid District-issued non-driver ID card holders will begin receiving notices to replace their old driver’s licenses. Patch archive photo
Come Thursday, May 1, 2014, all current District driver’s license and valid District-issued non-driver ID card holders will begin receiving notices to replace their old driver’s licenses. Patch archive photo

(Editor's note: The following is reprinted with permission from AAA-Mid Atlantic.)

The countdown is beginning in the District, and this Thursday is “date certain.” The city issued nearly 14,000 brand spanking new driver’s licenses last year. Now those drivers, and hundreds of thousands of other District residents with city-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver identification (ID) cards, can get new driver’s licenses and ID cards to board commercial aircraft and to access federal facilities before federal deadlines kick in. AAA Mid-Atlantic advises motorists to wait until receiving notification from the DMV to avoid paying a duplicate license fee.

They are not alone. Going forward, nearly six million Virginians applying for a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, commercial driver’s license or ID card in that state could possibly drop by a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. At this time, Virginia is operating under an extension and is not requiring drivers to trade in their current driver’s or identification cards.

To prevent long lines and a mad rush for the new documents in the nation’s capital, the District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is sending notices to residents detailing when they have to make an in-person visit to a service center bearing proof of identity and proof of their Social Security number and residency, explains AAA Mid-Atlantic, the largest motorists’ and leisure travel organization in North America and the Washington metro area.

“After years of debates, disputes, deferrals and delays, the REAL ID Act is a fait accompli in the District, and it will impact whether you can enter certain federal buildings and facilities or go through a screening checkpoint and onto an airplane,” noted John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Starting in at least 2016, a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card will be required for air travel. Air travelers can also fly using a passport or Permanent Residency Card.”

Come Thursday, May 1, 2014, all current District driver’s license and valid District-issued non-driver ID card holders will begin receiving notices to replace their old driver’s licenses and IDs with new federally mandated REAL ID licenses or ID credentials, as implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The change comes as the District has gained over 100,000 newly licensed drivers over the past four years alone and nearly a decade after Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 after 9/11 to enhance national security and to  thwart terrorism and ID fraud.

The impact is widespread and far-reaching, affecting more than 540,000 District residents, all told, estimates the District DMV.  Drivers and ID holders who fail to attain a secure driver’s licenses and identification documents by the compliance date, or to comply with the REAL ID statute and regulations, will be prevented from boarding a plane or going through an airport checkpoint, or from entering a federal installation, cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic.  To obtain the new federally compliant credentials, District residents will have to show up in person to a District DMV service center.  

So far, 21 states, including Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware, have already met the standards of the REAL ID Act of 2005 for driver’s licenses and identification cards, according to Homeland Security (DHS). Fourteen other states and territories, including New Jersey, are described as “not in compliance.”  In contrast, 21 states, including the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, have applied for “compliance extensions,” and are “on the pathway to full compliance.”

However, “licenses from these states will be accepted for federal purposes during the extension period,” notes the National Conference of State Legislatures. “These extensions will expire on October 10, 2014 and can be renewed.” The Virginia DMV is warning its customers of “longer wait times.” It predicts “potentially 5.6 million Virginia could visit DMV to apply for a REAL ID credential before 2017.” Even so, “requirements for electronic data exchanges and verifications will also contribute to longer transaction time,” warned the Virginia DMV.

To acquire the new REAL ID credentials, first-time District driver’s license and identification cards applicants and existing driver’s license or ID card holders are required to provide the following:

  • Source documents as proof of identity (full legal name and date of birth).
  • Social Security number.
  • Proof of lawful presence in the United States.
  • Proof of current residence in the District of Columbia.

District residents wishing to request a Limited Purpose Non-Driver Identification card or a Limited Purpose credential must schedule an appointment with the DMV.  Who’s affected? The District DMV says it “provides service to approximately 500,000 licensed drivers and identification card holders (out of a population of nearly 632,000).” That tally includes 376,436 persons with “active driver’s licenses” issued by the District DMV and 134,143 persons with active District-issued ID cards, as of Fiscal Year 2013, according to the DMV FY14 Performance Plan.


By The Numbers

(Source: DC DMV’s FY14 Performance Plan)

Number of active driver's licenses

FY11: 351,537

FY12: 362,755

FY13: 376,436

Number of active ID cards

FY11: 122,120

FY12: 128,872

FY13: 134,143

Number of active vehicle registrations

FY11: 277,583

FY12: 282,201

FY13: 286,715

In FY10, the District only boasted 274,676 licensed drivers. The city gained 101,760 newly licensed drivers between FY10 and FY13, reckons AAA Mid-Atlantic.  It comprises a 37-percentage point surge in the overall number of licensed drivers in the District (where getting your picture taken and a regular driver’s license is $44 alone, plus $10 for that knowledge test or skills test. It is $20 for a learner’s permit).


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