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Civics Sunday: The REAL ID

Perhaps you have heard some buzz recently about something called a REAL ID.  If you have a valid driver’s license, it is a photo ID useful for identification / age verification.  As of October 1, 2020, your driver’s license will NOT be valid identification for flying within the US or entering most federal facilities.  For those activities you will need a valid passport OR a REAL ID.

The following information has been compiled from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles website and information provided by AAA:

REAL ID is a Federal Security Standard for IDs that was created in 2005 as a result of increased federal security measures after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

After October 1, 2020, you will need a REAL ID OR a passport to fly within the United States or enter federal buildings.

Do I have a choice of driver license/ID types? Yes!

Whether you are getting a new driver’s license/ID or renewing your existing credential, the first decision you’ll need to make is, Standard driver’s license/ID OR REAL ID driver’s license/ID?

The cost to obtain a REAL ID or Standard driver’s license/ID card is the same.

You can use your valid passport instead of getting a REAL ID. (Make sure you keep your U.S. passport up to date.)

Starting October 1, 2020, you will need your passport OR a REAL ID to:

  • Board a plane flying in the U.S. 
  • Enter certain federal, military, and nuclear facilities 

If you want to get a REAL ID, you can apply between NOW and when your driver’s license or ID card comes up for renewal.

You can start any driver’s license or ID transaction online. Starting online means you’ll spend less time at an RMV Service Center.  (If you are a AAA member, you may obtain a Real ID at AAA locations that currently provide RMV services.)

Examples of the Massachusetts REAL ID and Standard Driver’s License are shown below.

Required identification documentation: Overview

Once you’ve decided if you want a REAL ID or Standard driver’s license/ID, get the right documents together. You’ll need to prove your:

  1. U.S. citizenship or lawful presence
  2. Social Security number
  3. Massachusetts residency

All documents must be originals, photocopies and laminated documents will not be accepted.

A document cannot be used to prove more than one requirement.

Name Must Match for REAL ID

If your current name doesn’t match the one that appears on your lawful presence document(s), you must prove your legal name change in order to qualify for a REAL ID driver’s license/ID card. If multiple name changes, documentation for each name change must be provided. You will need to provide one of the following:

  • Marriage Certificate (must be issued from the municipality)
  • Divorce Decree
  • Court Document

For a Standard driver’s license/ID card, a proof of name change document is not required.

DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS for Massachusetts Real ID

1) U.S. Citizenship or lawful presence documents

Lawful presence means that you’re legally living in the United States according to federal immigration laws. All U.S. citizens and lawfully permanent residents have permanent lawful presence in the U.S.

Non-U.S. citizens who are studying, working, or living temporarily in the U.S. may have temporary lawful presence that may vary in length.

For U.S. citizens, a valid, unexpired U.S. passport is sufficient proof of lawful presence. U.S. citizens may also provide a certified copy of their U.S. birth certificate.

For permanent residents, a valid permanent resident card (green card) is enough.

For non-U.S. citizens, you need to provide valid, verifiable immigration documents as well as proof that you’ve been granted a legal stay in the U.S. for at least 12 months. Your license or ID will expire when your legal stay is over.

Whether you’re getting a REAL ID or a Standard driver’s license/ID, you’ll need ONE of these:

  • Valid, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card
    • If your U.S. passport was issued within the last six months, bring your certified copy of your U.S. birth certificate
  • Certified copy of a birth certificate filed with a State Office of Vital Statistics or equivalent agency in the individual’s state of birth
    • A Puerto Rican birth certificate will only be accepted if it was issued on or after July 1, 2010. For more information on the Puerto Rican birth certificate law, visit the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration website. 
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) issued by the U.S. Department of State, Form FS-240, DS-1350, or FS-545
  • Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) issued by DHS or INS
  • Temporary I-551 stamp in foreign passport
  • Unexpired employment authorization document (EAD) issued by DHS, Form I-766, or Form I-688B
  • Unexpired foreign passport with a valid, unexpired U.S. visa affixed
    • A non-US passport must contain a current visa and be presented with an I-94 Record of Arrival and Departure, unless you have a Permanent Resident Card or other change in status. The I-94 can be either a paper version from U.S. Customs and Border Protection or a printout of an electronic version downloaded from their website.
    • For applicable customers who have a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) or ertificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (DS-2019) documentation verifying the applicant’s most recent admittance into the United States must be shown
  • Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-560, or Form N-561, issued by DHS
  • Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570)
  • Re-Entry Permit (I-327) – accepted for Standard credential only
  • Refugee Travel Document (I-571) – accepted for Standard credential only

2) Social Security Number:

If you’re getting a REAL ID, you’ll need to bring ONE of the following documents displaying your 9-digit SSN:

  • SSN Card (cannot be laminated)
  • W-2 Form*
  • SSA-1099 Form
  • Non-SSA-1099 Form
  • A pay stub with the applicant’s name and full SSN on it*
  • SSN Denial Notice with passport, visa, and I-94

*One (W-2/paystub) cannot be used for both the Massachusetts residency and SSN requirements.  Two different (W-2s/paystubs) from different employers can be used for both requirements.

If you do not have an SSN, you should apply for one at a Social Security office as soon as possible. If you are denied an SSN, you may still qualify for a Massachusetts driver’s license or ID card if you can meet other identification requirements. However, to prove that you applied for an SSN, you must present the written denial notice the SSA provided you. The RMV requires your SSN or denial notice to confirm your identity and to maintain your license and driving records.

If you’re getting a Standard driver’s license/ID, you’ll only need to provide your valid SSN.

3) Massachusetts Residency:

You’ll need TWO of these documents for a REAL ID (Standard driver’s license/ID applicants need ONE) of the following:

  • Massachusetts RMV-issued documents (can use one from the options below)
    • Current license, Massachusetts ID card, or learner’s permit (liquor ID not accepted)
    • RMV-issued correspondence dated within 60 days and received via U.S. mail (including license/registration reminders)
  • State/federal/municipal/city/town/county agency-issued documents
    • 1st class, government-issued mail dated within 60 days
    • Current MA-issued professional license with photograph
    • Medicaid statement dated within 60 days
    • Current firearms card
    • Jury duty summons dated within 60 days
    • Court correspondence dated within 60 days
    • Property tax for current year
    • Excise tax for current year
  • Bills
    • Utility bill (electric, telephone, water, sewer, cable, satellite, heating) dated within 60 days
    • Credit card statement dated within 60 days
    • Medical/hospital statement dated within 60 days
    • Cell phone bill dated within 60 days
  • Lease or Mortgage
    • Current lease/mortgage or similar rental contract
  • Financial-related documents
    • Bank statement that contains images of cancelled personal checks dated within 60 days
    • W-2 wage and tax statement from immediate prior year*
    • Current pension statement (401k, 457, SEP, etc.)
    • Current retirement statement
    • Pay stub dated within 60 days*
    • Current SSA statement
    • Current installment loan contract (car loan)
  • School-issued documents
    • Official school transcript for current year
    • Official letter from school (proof of enrollment dated within 60 days)
    • Tuition bill for current year
    • Certified school record for current year
  • Insurance-related documents
    • Auto insurance policy for current year
    • Renter’s insurance policy for current year
    • Homeowner’s insurance policy for current year
  • Alternative Residency Affidavit – For applicants under 18 only

*One (W-2/paystub) cannot be used for both the Massachusetts residency and SSN requirements.  Two different (W-2s/paystubs) from different employers can be used for both requirements.

Additional Resources:

Learn how to renew a U.S. passport 

Renew your driver’s license 

Massachusetts Identification (ID) Requirements 

Department of Homeland Security REAL ID

Chris Cain

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