Initiative 976-related changes to vehicle registration fees and taxes on hold after injunction

November 15, 2019

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UPDATE – NOV. 27, 2019: A King County Superior Court judge has issued an injunction in the court challenge to Initiative 976. The Washington State Department of Licensing will continue to collect all vehicle fees and taxes unless directed otherwise by a court. See our updated Fact Sheet for more information.


Nov. 15, 2019 – After the recent passage of I-976, commonly known as the $30 car-tab initiative, the Washington State Department of Licensing is working to implement changes to affected vehicle registration fees and taxes. The initiative takes effect Dec. 5, 2019.

Any possible changes to the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), also known as the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) tax, will happen later. While DOL collects this tax, it goes toward Sound Transit projects.

DOL is working to understand the effects of pending legal actions related to I-976. Implementation efforts will persist unless a court directs otherwise.

I-976 reduces or eliminates several fees and taxes while retaining others.


Gender “X” option now available on driver licenses, instruction permits, and ID cards

November 13, 2019

Starting today, residents can change their gender designation to “X” on a Washington driver license, instruction permit, or identification card. The “X” is an alternative to “M” for male or “F” for female, and is available to anyone.

A third gender option ensures that all Washington residents have identification documents that reflect their gender identity. Accurate gender markers on such documents help residents of all genders access public spaces and resources, and reduce the risk of violence, discrimination, and harassment.

“Everyone deserves to have their lived experience of gender and identity reflected as accurately as possible on their identification documents,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen said. “This, in turn, helps reduce barriers to housing, transportation, education, and employment. It’s in service to our purpose of helping all Washington residents live, work, drive, and thrive.”

An “X” gender designation will not affect the validity of identification used to comply with the REAL ID Act when enforcement begins Oct. 1, 2020. The REAL ID-compliant forms of identification issued by Washington state are the enhanced driver license (EDL) and enhanced ID card (EID), though residents have other options.

Before adding “X” as a gender option, DOL held public hearings in August in Seattle, Spokane, and Olympia regarding rule language. In June, listening sessions were held in Seattle and Spokane to solicit public opinion.

The move to allow a nonbinary designation on driver licenses and ID cards aligns with a similar rule change enacted by the state Department of Health. As of January 2018, people born in Washington can change their gender designation on their birth certificate.


2-wheel motorcycle permit and endorsement processes will change on Jan. 1, 2020

November 1, 2019

motorcycleAs part of a broader effort to reduce serious crashes and fatalities on Washington’s roadways, the state is changing its requirements for getting a 2-wheel permit or endorsement.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, motorcyclists seeking a permit will need to pass a basic knowledge and skills exam. They must pass a more advanced knowledge and skills exam for an endorsement.

Currently, motorcyclists must pass only a basic knowledge exam and skills test for an endorsement.

Also on Jan. 1, the penalty for riding without an endorsement will increase from $136 to $386. The average cost for a motorcycle safety course to obtain an endorsement is $200.

Motorcyclists represent a disproportionately high percentage of fatal and serious injury crashes. Switching to a more comprehensive exam process is in line with Gov. Jay Inslee’s Target Zero goal of reducing serious motor vehicle crashes and fatalities to zero by 2030.

Frequently asked questions about the law changes:

What must I do if I already have a motorcycle permit?

Individuals who already have a permit can take either a training course or a skills test before Dec. 31, 2019, to obtain a 2-wheel endorsement. See approved motorcycle training schools.

What must I do if I already have an endorsement?

Nothing. You’re all set.

What if I have taken a motorcycle knowledge test but I do not have a motorcycle permit?

If you want a motorcycle permit, you must visit a licensing service office to add it to your driver license. If you want a 2-wheel endorsement, you must pass a skills test. After that, you must visit a licensing office by Dec. 31, 2019 to add the endorsement.

What do I need to do if I already have a motorcycle permit but I did not get my endorsement by Dec. 31?

As long as your permit is still valid, take the 2-wheel endorsement-level knowledge test and a 2-wheel endorsement-level skills test. After passing both, visit a licensing office to add an endorsement to your driver license.

Am I able to renew my permit?

You can renew your permit once after Jan. 1, 2020.

What if my permit has expired?

You must start the process again. After Jan. 1, 2020, you must take a permit-level knowledge test and a permit-level skills test if your permit is expired.

What if I am under 18 years old?

If you are under 18, you must complete an approved motorcycle safety course before applying for an endorsement.

What if I want a sidecar/trike permit or endorsement?

The new law is specific to 2-wheel motorcycles. You will need to take a 3-wheel motorcycle training course or take the 3-wheel knowledge and skills tests. See approved trike/sidecar schools.


1 year left! Washington residents will need REAL ID-compliant identification to fly starting October 2020

October 1, 2019

ID laws for air travel are changing in 2020With the REAL ID enforcement deadline only a year away, officials with the Washington State Department of Licensing, Sea-Tac and Spokane international airports, and the Transportation Security Administration are urging Washington residents to act soon to ensure they will be ready to fly.

Starting Oct. 1, 2020, travelers 18 years and older will need a REAL ID-compliant form of identification to board a commercial flight.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. It enacted a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission that set minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. The legislation further barred federal agencies, including the TSA, from accepting state-issued driver licenses or ID cards that do not meet the minimum standards.

Now is the time to plan ahead and be ready for REAL ID requirements. Do not wait.

“We want Washington residents to be ready, and this is a reminder you have one year to look at your identity document options and determine which one best fits your lifestyle,” said Teresa Berntsen, DOL director. “You may already have the travel ID you need if you have one of many REAL ID-compliant documents, including Washington’s enhanced driver license or ID card. We strongly encourage our residents not to wait and get prepared now.”

Travelers can show any REAL ID-compliant identification at the TSA security checkpoint. TSA maintains a full list of acceptable forms of identification. A variety of identity documents will be accepted to board an airplane or enter secure federal facilities, including:

  • U.S. or foreign passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Military ID
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • Enhanced driver license
  • Tribal ID
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential

“TSA accepts more than driver licenses at the security checkpoint as a form of photo identification, so some travelers may already have an acceptable alternate form of ID,” said Deputy Federal Security Director for Washington Chris Baden. “With pending federal enforcement of REAL ID requirements, TSA encourages state residents to take a few minutes to decide what photo identification you plan to use for travel on Oct. 1, 2020 and beyond. A year from today, TSA officers will not be permitted to grant access to the security checkpoint unless the traveler has a REAL ID-compliant form of identification.”

Washington’s enhanced driver licenses (EDLs) and enhanced ID (EIDs) cards are REAL ID compliant, valid for air travel within the United States, and can be used to cross the borders of Canada and Mexico by land or sea. Some commonly needed documents to get an EDL/EID are certified birth certificate, U.S. passport, or military ID. A full list of document options to obtain an enhanced driver license or ID card is available on the DOL website.

Signs are posted at airports nationwide reminding the public that REAL ID enforcement is coming soon.

“Our priority is the customer experience for travelers at Sea-Tac Airport, but this is also about airports throughout the state of Washington and U.S.,” said Sea-Tac Airport Managing Director Lance Lyttle. “We are working together with DOL and TSA now to educate the public about REAL ID to ensure our passengers aren’t unpleasantly surprised in October next year.”

Demand for enhanced licenses and IDs will only increase as the deadline nears. By acting now to obtain the ID you need or to renew your license early, you can save yourself time and frustration later – both at DOL offices and at the airport.

“We are working closely with our partners at the Department of Licensing and TSA to make sure that Washington state residents are prepared for the full implementation of REAL ID as related to air travel,” said Larry Krauter, Spokane International Airport CEO. “We want to ensure a smooth transition over the next year so that we avoid serious disruptions to travel plans, particularly during the busy 2020 holiday travel season. Given our substantial growth, our screening checkpoints are challenged when everything is going well, and we want to avoid passengers being turned away at the checkpoints because they do not have a REAL ID-compliant license or other alternative like a U.S. passport.”

REAL ID is intended to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and ID cards while inhibiting the ability of terrorists and others to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.

More information and frequently asked questions about REAL ID can be found at the TSA website. Washington state residents can also learn more at the ID2020 website.


REAL ID rush is coming: Avoid the crowds, renew up to a year early

September 12, 2019

Did you know you can renew your Washington state driver license or ID card up to a year before it expires?

If you’re considering it, now’s the time to act. Licensing service offices tend to be less busy from September through April. And next year is no ordinary year.

On Oct. 1, 2020, the REAL ID Act goes into effect. Under this federal law, standard driver licenses and IDs will no longer be valid for the purposes of flying or accessing facilities such as military bases. Washington residents have several options for acceptable identification, including an enhanced driver license (EDL) or enhanced ID (EID).

A resident’s first EDL or EID can’t be obtained without visiting an office. Thus, the Department of Licensing expects a significant surge of in-person transactions as REAL ID enforcement draws closer.

This will inevitably lead to longer lines and wait times, but you can avoid the crowds by renewing early. Many customers can renew online. If you need to come in, choose any office.

Whatever you do, don’t delay. Our offices are only going to get busier as October 2020 approaches, and nobody likes sitting in traffic.

Even if you’ve been putting it off, it’s not too late to save yourself some time and trouble. If your license or ID is expired 60 days or less, there’s no late fee to renew (though you could be penalized by law enforcement). If your license is expired over 60 days, the late fee is $10.

Learn more about REAL ID.


Public hearings set for August on ‘X’ gender option on driver licenses, ID cards

July 31, 2019

X gender driver licenseWashington residents who identify as neither male nor female will soon have the option of listing “X” as their gender on state-issued driver licenses, instruction permits, and ID cards.

But before the change takes effect — possibly as soon as October — the Department of Licensing plans to solicit feedback from the public regarding proposed rule language. Input from the hearings, along with emails and phone calls, will be used to determine if rule wording should be edited.

Join us at any of the following hearings:

Aug. 12, 2019 – 5 p.m.
Seattle Public Library
1000 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

Aug. 13, 2019 – 5 p.m.
Washington State Capitol, Columbia Room
416 Sid Snyder Avenue SW
Olympia, WA 98504

Aug. 15, 2019 – 4 p.m.
Spokane Public Library
3324 South Perry Street
Spokane, WA 99203

If you have questions or need a reasonable accommodation for a hearing, please email rulescoordinator@dol.wa.gov, call 360-902-3846, or send your request by mail to P.O. Box 9020, Olympia, WA 98507.

If you can’t attend a hearing, you can still be heard. Submit a comment online.

Listening sessions were held in June in Seattle and Spokane to gather public sentiment on providing a third gender option. Insights from those sessions were used in drafting rule language.

The move to allow a non-binary designation on driver licenses and ID cards comes more than a year and a half after a similar rule change was enacted by the state Department of Health. As of January 2018, people born in Washington can change their sex designation on their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity.

Adding an “X” gender designation won’t affect the validity of identification used to comply with the REAL ID Act when enforcement begins Oct. 1, 2020.


Downtown Seattle licensing service office is moving to a new location starting July 30

July 22, 2019

DOL logoSeattle is growing, and we’re growing along with it.

Effective Tuesday, July 30, our downtown Seattle licensing service office will be housed in a new location:

450 3rd Ave W, Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98119

July 26 is the last day at the Spring Street office.

Although the new office will normally be open on Mondays, it will be closed July 29 so we can install and test new cameras, finish office setup, and acclimate staff. We’ll be ready to serve the public the following day.

With nearly double the space of the Spring Street office, the new location on 3rd Avenue will help with customer flow and provide a more comfortable environment for visitors and staff. The addition of three work counters, cameras at each workstation, and other updated equipment and software will also help us more effectively meet customer needs.

The change of address won’t affect hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.