If you live in any of a group of 25 states, you may have begun to hear about REAL IDs. REAL IDs are tied to a Congressional Act dating back to 2005, but it didn’t really take full effect until the past year. As a result, it has overhauled driver’s license and other ID requirements for many states and affects more than half of all U.S. residents. If you need to renew an ID anytime soon, you may want to better understand the requirements and how they impact you. Otherwise, you may find yourself among the masses who suddenly need a social security card or birth certificate replacement just to renew your driver’s license.
A few years back, the federal government updated the requirements for state IDs to double as federally approved forms of identification. When this happened, roughly half the states in the country were suddenly found to be out of compliance. Most states have recently revised their requirements to fall in line, and now renewing or obtaining IDs in those states is a bit more cumbersome. If your previous driver’s license or other ID was among those found out of compliance, then it is an invalid form of ID and won’t help you update. In those cases, getting the new or renewed card will basically be the same as applying for the first time.
What You Need
States are still the final arbiters of their own requirements, and they vary accordingly. Still, any state that is now compliant with federal rules will have a few common requests. In general, you will need a proof of identity, a proof of identity number and one or more proofs of residency. For proof of identity, you can try using a U.S. passport, a foreign passport with a stamp, a consular birth certificate, a permanent resident card, a certificate of naturalization or citizenship, an existing REAL ID or a birth certificate (which is the most common and has caused a spike in requests for birth certificate replacements). To prove an ID number, you can use a social security card, W2, pay stub or other accepted verification of social security contribution. Proof of residence will be the most different among states, but you can use an insurance bill, a property tax statement, a utility bill or a pay stub.
Once you have successfully obtained a REAL ID card, the renewal process is a smaller hassle. REAL IDs are a valid proof of residence and identification, so you usually only need it and another valid ID to update your license. It will also make life easier moving forward as it qualifies as a federal ID for the sake of travel (although it doesn’t replace a passport if you leave the country) and filling out federal forms.