With the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline looming for Minnesota residents to obtain a new Real ID which will allow them to fly on commercial airlines in the United States, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has two recommendations. Start early. Start online.

“Don’t wait,” said Bruce Gordon, director of communications for the MDPS. “The deadline is less than a year away. It makes perfect sense to apply now rather than wait to the last minute. Don’t procrastinate.”

After Oct. 1, 2020, standard driver’s licenses will no longer serve as legal identification for commercial air travel in the United States, so Wisconsin residents will also need to apply for a Real ID or have a U.S. Passport to pass through a TSA checkpoint.

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The Real ID is available at any Minnesota driver’s license office. The fee is the same as for a normal driver’s license, although anyone who applies before their current license expires will be assessed a small fee of $2-$6 depending on how long is left on the current license.

Real ID applications require multiple forms of identification from three categories. The lists in each category are extensive, so applicants should be sure to check the lists at dps.mn.gov for a full explanation of what documents are necessary.

“Go through the pre-application online,” Gordon said. “That will take you through the requirements and will help to ensure that you have all the correct documents in hand before you go into the driver’s license office.”

Wisconsin leads the way

A Real ID looks much like a standard driver’s license but has a star inside a circle in the upper righthand corner. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
A Real ID looks much like a standard driver’s license but has a star inside a circle in the upper righthand corner. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation

As of Jan. 1, about 40% of eligible Wisconsin residents had applied for a Real ID, according to Terry Walsh, communication manager with the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. As of the end of January, approximately 11% of eligible Minnesotans have obtained a Real ID, according to the MDSP website.

“We encourage people to start online,” Walsh said. “You can go to wisconsindmv.gov and put in your driver’s license number. That will pull up our special app, and it will walk you through the process of what documents you will need to bring.”

The app also lets residents submit the Real ID application online or print it out and bring it with them to the driver’s license station. Any driver’s license office in the state can handle Real ID applications.

“You can then make an appointment at the DMV,” Walsh said. “It cuts down on errors, and it cuts down on time.”

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Walsh said that an applicant’s regular driver’s license would be punched and voided at the time of applying for a Real ID.

“We’ll take a picture and prepare a receipt that has an image of the card and pertinent information, so you can use your paper receipt as an ID when you walk out the door,” she explained. “If you get pulled over, your receipt is valid to show to law enforcement.”

It takes seven to ten business days to receive the new Real ID card, according to Walsh.

“If you don’t get your card in that amount of time, give us a call and we’ll track it down,” she said. “Usually people are getting it even sooner.”

The biggest challenge for people applying for Real ID cards is providing the right documents. The process requires more and different documentation that a regular driver’s license, and the exact requirements are explained in detail on the Wisconsin Real ID website. Documents must provide proof of identity, U.S. citizenship, Wisconsin residency, and Social Security number.

While the Real ID Act set security standards, obtaining a Real ID is optional. After Oct. 1, 2020, a standard driver’s license will no longer be accepted by TSA for commercial flights for travelers 18 and over; however, travelers could fly with a U.S. Passport or other acceptable form of federal identification.

A Real ID looks much like a standard driver’s license except there is a star inside a circle in the upper righthand corner of the license.

Welsh said her best advice for someone interested in obtaining a Real ID is “definitely start online.”

Minnesota wait times

At this time, the process to receive a Real ID takes six to eight weeks in Minnesota, according to Gordon. He added that additional resources are being added to speed up this process, so he expects that that timeframe will be reduced.

During that waiting period, applicants will have to carry two documents to qualify as a legal driver’s license.

“Your current driver’s license will be stamped in such a way that it would invalidate it, but that stamped driver’s license, plus the temporary license that you would get when you leave the counter, would be valid for identification or even to show to TSA at an airport security checkpoint, as long as you have the stamped license and the temporary license.”

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act which established minimum security standards for state-issued ID cards and driver’s licenses. While the Real ID Act set security standards, obtaining a Real ID is optional. After Oct. 1, 2020, a standard driver’s license will no longer be accepted by TSA for commercial flights for travelers 18 and over; however, travelers could fly with a U.S. Passport or a Minnesota Enhanced Driver’s Licence.

Gordon said the most common problems people have when applying for a Real ID are failing to bring at least two documents that provide proof of Minnesota residency, and not providing adequate proof in cases of name change.