The state Registry of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing drivers' licenses and state IDs that comply with a 2005 federal security law on Monday, March 26, Registrar Erin Deveney said Monday, according to the State House News Service.
That gives Bay Staters about two and a half years to obtain licenses that comply with the REAL ID Act before those types of documents become a requirement for domestic air travel. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, Massachusetts drivers' licenses that are not REAL ID compliant will no longer be accepted as identification for domestic air travel, accessing federal facilities or entering nuclear power plants.
"You don't have to rush in to get one," Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said at a meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board, noting the window before the requirement goes into effect.
Customer service at the registry will close at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 22, until the relaunch of REAL ID compliant services the following Monday morning, according to Deveney, who said law enforcement will still be able to access the RMV's records during that time.
In conjunction with the transition to REAL ID, the RMV will also launch a new mainframe computer system. The vendor FAST Enterprises has been working on that program with the registry, Deveney said.
"We needed to expand our technical capacity to capture additional information," Deveney told reporters. She said, "The first component of the new system that is going live on March 26 of 2018 will replace our current mainframe system for offering driver's license and identification cards."
Residents who want a driver's license or state identification card that complies with REAL ID will need to bring in some additional information, Deveney said. Citizens can bring in a certified copy of their birth certificates or a U.S. passport and non-citizens can bring immigration information that they would already have on hand, Deveney said. The registry will let customers know their options and the agency will use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system to verify that information, she said.
It costs $50 to renew a license and licenses need to be renewed every five years. Licenses that are not in compliance with REAL ID will remain valid for driving purposes, but federal officials will stop recognizing them on Oct. 1, 2020.
"Unfortunately for customers who had to renew because they expired before March 26, you would have to come in and it would be a duplicate $25 fee cost for that," Deveney told the Transportation Board. Passports and military ID will remain valid forms of identification for plane travel, according to Deveney, who said more than half of Massachusetts residents have passports.
The new licenses will be matched to the length of immigrants' lawful status, and the registry plans to prorate the costs of the licenses for immigrants if they expire in fewer than five years' time, Pollack said.
Starting on March 26, people can renew their licenses a year early, Deveney told the News Service, and they can also choose to obtain a state ID that does not meet the specifications of the REAL ID Act, she said, noting that option was specified in state law.
Deveney said the new licensing process will "include proof of lawful presence" in the United States "whether you choose a real ID credential or you choose a standard Massachusetts driver's license." The registry will need to staff up as officials anticipate that license-holders will "come in earlier than they otherwise would" to get REAL ID compliant licenses, Pollack said.