Deadline for REAL ID a year away

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Montanans are running out of time to get their REAL IDs if they want to board a plane at this time next year.

By Oct. 1, 2020, Montanans must have REAL ID-compliant identification if they want to fly commercially and do not have a passport, military ID or alternative form of identification approved by the Transportation Security Administration, or the TSA.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Travel Association, only 42 percent of Americans hold passports, while 99 million Americans do not have the REAL ID.

“If REAL ID standards were to be fully enforced immediately, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day,” the Travel Association said in a press release last week.

In Montana, a compliant REAL ID credential is identified with a gold star in the top-right corner of a driver’s license.

To get a REAL ID credential, you must make an appointment at a local Department of Motor Vehicles office, and during the appointment present documents to prove your name, date of birth, Social Security number, Montana residency and authorization to be in the United States.

Michele Snowberger, drivers services bureau chief at the Montana Department of Justice, said it is time for people to decide if they need a REAL ID or not.

“It’s a personal decision, but it’s important people make that decision as soon as possible,” she said.

Those whose driver’s license is expiring soon should consider getting the REAL ID when they renew their license.

REAL ID credentials cost $25 for those who need to renew their license, but $50 for those whose license is more than six months from expiring or expired more than three months previously.

For low-income residents or those struggling to afford the fees, there are no waiver programs or forms or financial assistance available. Snowberger said the fees are necessary to support the implementation of REAL ID in Montana.

It is important that individuals have the proper documents ready before their appointments, Snowberger said. She said one common mistake is for women who changed their last name through marriage to show up without proof of a name change.

Snowberger encourages people to visit for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

The U.S. Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 based on the advice of the 9/11 Commission, which concluded the ease of getting a driver’s license posed a security risk. The original deadline of 2008 was postponed as states filed for extensions and numerous states, including Montana, passed legislation opposing REAL ID.

In 2017, the Montana Legislature passed a measure to comply with the REAL ID Act but did not make REAL ID mandatory for Montana residents. The original deadline was postponed until its current deadline on Oct. 1, 2020, but another postponement should not be expected.

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