Editor's Note: Due to coronavirus, the Real ID deadline has been extended to Oct. 1, 2021.
Dear fellow traveler:
This is not a shout-out to supporters of Bernie Sanders. Instead, if you buy your Christmas presents on Dec. 24, wedding anniversary gifts on the morning of, or used to wait in line at the post office to file your income tax returns on April 15, the federal government has a deadline for you: Oct. 1. That is the day your old Minnesota driver’s license cannot be used for identification to enter any nuclear facility or federal building, or board an airline flight. Most of us probably will not be inconvenienced by a lack of ingress to a nuclear facility. The lawyers mentioned in this issue and their clients will be chagrined when they try to enter a federal courthouse. But overwhelmingly, almost all of us will be stopped short if we cannot board a commercial airplane.
In fact, the Real ID system was adopted into law and too effect in 2005, a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. You might wonder how it is possible you’ve been flying all these years using your old driver’s license without securing a Real ID? Well, the answer is that the machinery of government (this will be a surprise) moves very slowly. Statutory delays, state-by-state waivers, and basic legislative resistance to federal government ID schemes kept delaying the effective date—but no longer! On Oct. 1 you will be earthbound unless you have an approved form of identification.
There are a few workarounds that will still allow you to fly post-deadline: a passport or the driver’s license-sized “passport card,” a heavily encrypted, multi-layered plastic card that can function as a passport for land and sea crossings between the United States, Canada, Mexico, some Caribbean countries, and Bermuda, but cannot be used for intercontinental air travel. They require an additional fee (currently $65) and have a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip. Passport cards bear a different passport number and a different expiration date than your regular passport.
The United States Travel Association has recently estimated that 99 million Americans do not have any form of Real ID-compliant identification. It is estimated that only 42 percent of Americans hold passports. The Minneapolis newspaper has estimated that almost 90 percent of Minnesotans lack a Real ID-compliant license. But there is good news here. Just like technology (Amazon) has made it easier for many of us to complete our shopping before Dec. 24 or the morning of our wedding anniversary, so too has the Minnesota Department of Public Safety gone online (dps.mn.gov) to expedite the process for the vast number of us who have yet to get REAL! More good news: This online system of the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (unlike the section that handles license plates) works perfectly.
The basic choice to make is whether or not to get a REAL ID or an enhanced Real ID driver’s license (EDL). The EDL is a dual-purpose optional card that serves as your typical driver’s license and is then enhanced so that it allows a Minnesota resident to enter the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or some countries in the Caribbean. Note that neither Real ID nor an EDL gives you international flight boarding access in the United States (nor would it be accepted in a foreign country). Note also that the EDL does include an RFID chip. Of course, additional documentation (see the website at dps.mn.gov) and an additional fee are required. After having gone through the process, I can state that using the pre-application feature online will save you hours of time and possibly more than one visit to a DVS location. It is really the only way to go, and again, let me give a shout-out to the Department of Public Safety for, in this instance, excellent service.
You can also apply for REAL ID (non-enhanced) using the pre-application feature available at the DPS website. The website also gives a tally by county of total REAL ID-compliant licensed cardholders; according to this tally, 15.9 percent of licensed drivers in Hennepin County are REAL ID0compliant. Currently, the statewide total is 12.5 percent. Clearly, many of our fellow travelers will be standing in long lines before government desks and at inconvenient times.
Remember, all of you who tend to wait, September only has 30 days. Get REAL!
Vance K. Opperman
Well prepared with passport, passport card,
enhanced driver’s license
Vance K. Opperman
is owner and CEO of MSP
Communications, which publishes
Twin Cities Business.