Real ID Act: Why you may need to apply for a new Michigan license, ID card before 2020

REAL ID Act passed Congress in 2005

LANSING – If you're planning on flying or need to enter a federal building, you may need to update your Michigan ID.

Michigan residents have the option (which started in August 2017) of applying for a driver’s license or ID card that will allow them to board flights and enter federal facilities to comply with a federal mandate, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today.

“Without a card accepted by the federal government, Michigan residents will face the inconvenience and extra expense of having to get a passport or another accepted document to fly or visit federal buildings,” Johnson said. “To avoid future headaches for travelers, we will offer a compliant card for those who want one, and, for those who don’t, we still have the standard card for normal identification purposes.”

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will not allow Michigan residents carrying a driver’s license or ID card that does not comply with the federal REAL ID Act to board domestic flights, or enter federal buildings, nuclear plants or military bases unless they have another accepted identity document.

Compliant cards will be marked with a star inside a gold circle on the upper right. There is no extra fee for a REAL ID-compliant card and compliant cards will not contain Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

Michigan residents should check their license or ID card renewal notice when it arrives in the mail for information about whether they already have complied with REAL ID identification requirements. To obtain a compliant card, residents will need to bring a certified birth certificate or another approved document to any Secretary of State office.

Card-holders who do not apply for a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card will receive a standard one with “Not for federal identification” printed on it. These cards still will be valid for driving, identification purposes and buying age-restricted items. 

In addition to the standard and REAL ID-compliant cards, Michigan also issues enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards (pictured at left), which are marked with a U.S. flag, and allow land or sea travel from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Caribbean nations.

These cards already are REAL ID-compliant so enhanced card-holders do not need to apply for a compliant card.

The federal REAL ID standards for driver’s licenses and ID cards were created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The act sets document and security standards for the production and issuance of driver’s licenses and ID cards, including the use of features to prevent illegal copying or altering.

It also helps protect against fraud and misuse by requiring people to verify their identity, residency, Social Security number, and citizenship or legal presence when applying for a license or ID card.

The REAL ID Act passed Congress in 2005 on a bipartisan basis, and the administrations of Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump have worked to enforce it.

Here are some FAQs from the state:

Do children and teens need REAL ID? Transportation Security Administration does not require children under age 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, what will I show at an airport if I do not have a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or ID? A valid U.S. passport or passport card, DHS Trusted Traveler card, and U.S. Military ID are just a few of the documents that will be accepted if you don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card. The federal Transportation Security Administration lists acceptable alternatives to a state-issued REAL ID-compliant license or ID card.

How much does a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or state ID card cost? Normal driver’s license and ID card fees apply. There is no additional cost for a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card when a person renews normally. A correction fee may be charged when people apply for a compliant license outside of their normal renewal cycle.

How do I apply for a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or state ID card?

First Michigan Driver’s License or ID:

If you are applying for your first (original) Michigan driver’s license or ID card, please refer to the form, Applying for a Driver’s License or ID? (SOS-428). This form explains what documents are required to obtain your REAL ID card. 

Renewing a Michigan Driver’s License or ID Card:

  • If your renewal notice states that your card is REAL ID compliant, your new license or ID (standard and Enhanced) will have a star printed on it. If you are renewing an enhanced license or ID, it will have the American flag printed on it to show that it conforms to the federal REAL ID requirements.
  • If your renewal notice states that your license or ID is not REAL ID compliant and you want to apply for a REAL ID-compliant card, you must visit a Secretary of State office. Please read the insert included with your renewal notice carefully to see what documentation you must provide.

    Note: You cannot apply for a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card by mail or online. Any documents provided when applying for a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card must be originals or copies certified with a raised seal or stamp; faxes and photocopies will not be accepted.

If your name is different from what’s on your birth certificate, you’ll need to bring in a certified name-change document, such as your marriage license or court order. Multiple documents may be needed if your name has changed more than once. Name-change documents must show both the changed name and the previous name. Divorce decrees may be used if they are certified (copies are not accepted) and if they show the changed name and the previous name.

What happens to my standard driver's license or ID card after Oct. 1, 2020 if I do not obtain a REAL ID-compliant card?

Nothing. Your standard Michigan driver’s license remains valid for driving, and a standard license and state ID may be used as identification for cashing checks, renting vehicles, purchasing alcohol and tobacco, or entering casinos. Just remember, you will need to bring a REAL ID-compliant document when you fly domestically, or enter a military base, nuclear power plant and certain federal buildings because your standard license or state ID will no longer be accepted.

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