Michigan Secretary of State prepares for Real ID regulations in 2020

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published April 23, 2019

 Michigan residents will have to obtain an identification card that qualifies as a Real ID card in order to travel by plane or gain access to certain government facilities after Oct. 1, 2020. The standard driver’s license, top, will not qualify, while the “gold star” variant, middle, does have Real ID qualifications, as does an enhanced  ID, bottom.

Michigan residents will have to obtain an identification card that qualifies as a Real ID card in order to travel by plane or gain access to certain government facilities after Oct. 1, 2020. The standard driver’s license, top, will not qualify, while the “gold star” variant, middle, does have Real ID qualifications, as does an enhanced ID, bottom.

Image provided by Shawn Starkey

MICHIGAN — On Oct. 1, 2020, everyone flying in the United States, even on domestic flights, will have to have a certain type of identification to travel. 

The new system of identification was formally announced in 2005. The switchover is being handled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and implemented by state agencies such as the Michigan Secretary of State.

The Michigan Department of State is reassuring residents that obtaining one of these “Real IDs” can be as easy as renewing a driver’s license. New licenses and state identification cards can be used as a Real ID.

“The whole concept of Real ID is, under the new federal law beginning Oct. 1 of 2020, you have to have what’s classified as a Real ID to board domestic flights in the United States and enter certain facilities, such as certain federal facilities, U.S. military bases and nuclear power plants,” said Shawn Starkey, communications director for the Michigan Department of State. “For people looking to fly domestically who don’t have a passport, which also is considered a Real ID, this could be a big deal.”

As of 2019, there are three categories of driver’s licenses in Michigan. Two of these types serve as a Real ID.

“There are three levels of driver’s licenses: the standard license, which doesn’t serve as a Real ID but is still good for other uses, like driving a car or buying alcohol; the second type has the gold star on it, and it also serves as a Real ID; and the third is the enhanced ID card, which allows people to do everything mentioned before but also lets people re-enter the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean,” explained Starkey. “If you’re flying, you’ll still need a passport coming from those places.”

The standard licenses and identification cards will still serve in their previous functions even after Oct. 1, 2020. Experts are not expecting the new system to significantly affect the way people travel.

“Real ID is a Department of Homeland Security requirement. I can’t talk beyond the local level,” said Ken Hammond, public affairs liaison for the office of field operations for the Customs and Border Patrol Detroit office. “Using an enhanced driver’s license or ID card will suffice to cross the border. It shouldn’t affect the traveling experience for people.”

The Department of Homeland Security has said the new system will increase safety while making travel as easy or easier for United States citizens.

“Secure driver’s licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework,” the Department of Homeland Security states on its website. “The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government ‘set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.’ The act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.”

The new licenses can be obtained when people ordinarily renew their driver’s licenses or IDs.

“If you’re coming in to upgrade your license, you need to make sure to bring your current license or ID card and your certified birth certificate or your passport, and if your name is different than what’s on your birth certificate, you need to bring something showing why you changed the name, such as a marriage certificate or a court document,” said Starkey. “If you are coming in to renew your license, there is no additional fee. They charge a small duplicate card fee if it’s at any other time. The enhanced ID does cost extra at all times.”

There’s no additional fee beyond the normal license or identification card renewal fees to get a  license that qualifies as a REAL ID if someone applies at the normal renewal time. Those who apply for a REAL ID at any other time must pay an extra $9 fee for a license or $10 for an identification card. The fee is $45 for an enhanced license and $30 for an enhanced identification card. 

State organizations such as the Michigan State Department are working to get the word out about this upcoming switchover well ahead of time to ensure people don’t find themselves grounded when they go to travel after Oct. 1, 2020.

“I think people should be aware of this Oct. 1, 2020, deadline,” said Starkey. “Someone who flies frequently probably has seen the signs and knows this is coming. We’ve been doing some promotion, but people who only fly once a year, for instance, may not know about this yet. This affects everybody, and we want to get the word out with plenty of time so people don’t have to scramble when that deadline comes around.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.