Starting Oct. 1, 2020, airline travelers aged 18 and older will be required to present a REAL ID-compliant state ID or driver’s license — or another accepted form of identification, like a passport — in order to fly within the United States.

In Washington, the available REAL ID-compliant driver’s license and ID card are the Enhanced Driver’s License and the Enhanced ID card.

We asked readers to send us their most pressing questions about REAL ID and talked to Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) representative Christine Anthony and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman Lorie Dankers to bring you some answers.

Here’s what we found.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act is a federal law passed by Congress in 2005 that created new minimum requirements for state-issued forms of identification, namely driver’s licenses and ID cards. The law prohibits federal agencies from accepting forms of identification that do not comply with standards set forth by the legislation.

Since 2005, states have worked with TSA and the Department of Homeland Security to meet the requirements established by the REAL ID Act.

What forms of ID are REAL ID-compliant?

Good news! If you don’t already have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID, you can also use other accepted forms of identification to fly, like a passport or a permanent resident card. See the full list of accepted identification on the TSA website here:  www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

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If you do not already have an accepted form of ID, you can apply for a Washington Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced ID card, which are REAL ID-compliant.

Who cannot get an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) or Enhanced ID (EID)? 

In Washington state, you cannot get an EDL or EID if you’re not a U.S. citizen.

How do I get an Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced ID?

You can apply for an EDL/EID at any Washington DMV or licensing office during operating hours. Be sure to check wait times on the DOL website.

What documents do I need to get an Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced ID?

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To apply for an EDL or EID in Washington, you will need documents that establish the following:

  1. Proof of U.S. citizenship (e.g., a valid U.S. passport or U.S. Certificate of Citizenship)
  2. Proof of your identity (e.g., a valid driver’s license or passport)
  3. Proof of a valid Social Security number (e.g., a Social Security card or W-2 with your SSN)
  4. Proof of Washington state residency. (e.g., a Washington ID or utility bill dated within two months)
  5. Proof of every time you have legally changed your name since birth, if applicable (e.g., a marriage certificate)

There are many different documents that can provide the required proof. A complete list is available on the Washington Department of Licensing website: www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/edlproof.html

How can I tell if I already have an Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced ID card?

Although many states’ REAL ID-compliant identification cards can be recognized by a star at the top of the card, Washington’s REAL ID-compliant Enhanced Drivers License and Enhanced ID do not have a star on them.

The Washington EDL and EID can be identified by an American flag featured on the ID, by the pink banner at the top of the ID, or the words “Enhanced Driver’s License” on the pink banner. Standard ID cards will have a blue banner, and standard ID issued within the last year will have the “Federal Limits Apply” at the top as well.

The DOL says it is working with TSA to ensure Washington’s EDL/EID is recognized at security checkpoints.

The DOL is working with the TSA to ensure Real-ID compliant IDs from Washington state are accepted at security checkpoints. (Washington Department of Licensing)
The DOL is working with the TSA to ensure Real-ID compliant IDs from Washington state are accepted at security checkpoints. (Washington Department of Licensing)

How much does it cost to get an EDL or EID in Washington? 

If you’re getting a new Enhanced Driver’s License or ID and you’ve never had one before, it will cost $78.

Each standard driver’s license is valid for six years and costs $54 to renew. If you are upgrading from a standard driver’s license or ID to an Enhanced Driver’s License or ID, the Enhanced Driver’s License will cost $4 to $24 more than the standard renewal, depending on how many years of validity you have left on your standard license. So, on top of the $54 standard-license renewal fee, you’ll pay an extra $4 for every year of validity that remains on your license.

Ask the TSA/DOL

Why does the EDL/EID cost more than a standard Washington driver’s license/ID?

DOL: It takes extra time to do it because we have to verify that you’re a U.S. citizen.

How does one renew the EDL/EID? 

DOL: It’s the same as the standard license. You can renew online after six years, but when it becomes 12 years, you have to come back into an office. It’s exactly the same as the standard. We just need to see your face every 12 years.

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What are the most frequent reasons that someone shows up and isn’t able to meet the requirements for an Enhanced Driver’s License?

DOL:  The most common one is the birth certificate. If you have to bring in your birth certificate, it has to be a certified copy. So some people have copies that weren’t certified by their county of record. We like to remind people to make sure it’s a certified copy, not just a hospital copy. If they were born in Washington, the Department of Health has a link on their website where you can purchase your birth certificate.

If you’re married and you changed your name, some people don’t think to bring their marriage certificate. We really just encourage people to look at the list that we have online and try to gather as many of those documents as they can before they come into an office.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Noncompliant cards must clearly state on their face [and in the machine-readable zone] that they are not acceptable for REAL ID purposes and must use a unique design or color to differentiate them from compliant cards.” Can these noncompliant ID forms be used to subject non-U.S. citizens to further screening? 

TSA: TSA will use this identification for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to verify that you are who you say you are to board an aircraft. There is no cross-sharing of that information with other law enforcement agencies within DHS or outside of DHS. It’s simply a function at the security checkpoint.

Is it possible to concurrently hold both an enhanced ID and a regular Washington driver’s license? 

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DOL: No, you can only have one identity document in this state.

Will Washington DOL offices be offering extended hours to meet the demand for Real ID? 

DOL: There are a couple of offices in our busy areas that are open until 5:30 p.m. For a time, we did extend hours, and we found that people didn’t really come in. I think that’s something that’s definitely on the table [for closer to the deadline]. We’re expecting a whole bunch of people to come in next year, so we are certainly trying to find ways to mitigate that wave.

If you don’t want to wait in line for an Enhanced ID, make sure to come in early, especially if you have to renew. If you’re one of the ones who has to come into an office next year because it’s been 12 years and it’s past your birth date, please come in now and avoid the lines. If you’re upgrading to an Enhanced ID, you have to come in regardless, but you can do that right now. Our wait times right now are very low.

How can people who do not have a permanent physical address, or who only use a post office box, prove residency for an Enhanced Driver’s License or ID card? 

DOL: At this time, the applicant can inquire about an exception if they are unable to meet requirements.

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How long is the typical DOL wait for an Enhanced Driver’s License? 

DOL: Right now is a really good time, because we’re not as busy. Going through the process, it could be a half an hour to an hour, maybe not quite that long. If they want to know how long they’re going to wait for a certain experience, we do have wait times listed on our website under each individual office. The [Enhanced Driver’s License] process just takes a little bit longer just because we’re verifying documents and your Social Security number.

Why are holders of green cards, who have typically been vetted extensively, ineligible to receive an Enhanced ID/Driver’s License through the state of Washington?

DOL: When the federal government started talking about finally enforcing the REAL ID act, we already were issuing the Enhanced Driver’s License (which requires U.S. citizenship), and they looked at our requirements and they were already REAL ID compliant, so we chose not to make any changes to that. The green card through TSA is a travel document you can use.

TSA currently has a policy that allows travelers who have lost their ID to fly by going through alternative identity-verification processes at the airport. Will this still be an option for travelers after REAL ID compliance takes effect? 

TSA: TSA does have a policy. We call it our identification-verification process, and people who’ve been through that know what it entails — an officer doing essentially a public-records background check on you. It can take between 30 minutes and an hour. It also requires additional screening. It is not something people should count on being available to them after Oct. 1, 2020, both from a resource standpoint, but also because if they’ve chosen not to get a REAL ID (or use another accepted form of ID), that is not a good fail-safe for them. TSA is looking at our capacity to do those types of checks, and at this point, it’s not something that we believe we’ll be able to provide broadly just because of a resource issue.

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I subscribe to CLEAR, where no ID is required and you are cleared via either an eye scan or fingerprint match. Will I need the new ID? 

TSA: That is being handled now. Keep in mind, when people enrolled in CLEAR, requirements were different. Direction will be given to CLEAR and that will be communicated to its members on how REAL ID intersects with the service they provide. That is the best [information] we can provide right now.

While the TSA at the Seattle airport may recognize the Washington Enhanced Driver’s License, TSA officers elsewhere are looking for a gold star in the right corner. How can travelers from states that don’t use a gold star ensure TSA officers nationwide accept their compliant IDs? Are TSA agents being trained to know what all compliant IDs look like?

TSA: Our officers are being asked to start to recognize these. They will have reference guides for that, and if you’re told that your enhanced driver’s license is not acceptable, a Washington state enhanced driver’s license is an acceptable form of REAL ID. There should be no argument. I’m confident that won’t happen after Oct. 1, 2020. That’s 11 months from now, and all the officers will become more familiar with REAL ID-compliant forms of identification. Just like in any other circumstance at the security checkpoint, rather than getting in a verbal disagreement with someone, ask to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor will come and will rectify the situation.