Upgrade or renew your driver license/ID now — or be prepared for a very long wait

February 20, 2020
Good and bad ID options

When the REAL ID law goes into effect Oct. 1, standard Washington driver licenses and standard IDs will no longer be accepted for air travel.

Been meaning to upgrade to an enhanced driver license or identification card? Hurry!

License or ID card set to expire in the next year? Renew now!

Don’t procrastinate.

Do. Not. Wait.

Because the longer you wait to address your licensing needs, the longer you can expect to wait in line.

How long? By late summer, it could be hours.

New federal ID requirements for air travel go into effect Oct. 1. Under the new law, known as the REAL ID Act, a standard Washington driver license or ID card will no longer be accepted for the purposes of domestic air travel or accessing federal facilities such as military bases.

Although residents can choose from many acceptable ID options, we expect a sharp increase in applications for enhanced driver licenses and enhanced ID cards. These REAL ID-compliant forms of identification can be obtained only by bringing the necessary documents to a licensing office.

That means we could be processing hundreds of thousands of last-minute transactions.

If you already have what you need to fly and just want to renew, you might be able to skip a trip and go online. Remember, you can renew up to a year before your license or ID expires; your renewal term will still begin when your current term ends.

If an office visit is unavoidable, you can see up-to-the-minute wait times before you go. Just click on your chosen location and check the right side of the page.

Wait times can vary greatly depending on the office, the day, and even the time of day. Some offices, especially along the I-5 corridor, can experience wait times 3-4 times longer than average. A little planning can save you a lot of time.

Best times to visit tend to be:

  • Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays
  • Weekday mornings

Busiest times tend to be:

  • Lunch time
  • The first day the office is open after a holiday
  • Weekdays after 3 p.m., when children are out of school

See more tips for visiting a licensing service office.


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.


Washington Department of Licensing takes steps to comply with Real ID Act

June 1, 2018

New marking to be added to all standard-issue driver licenses and ID cards

Examples and features of standard driver license and enhanced driver license.

Choose the identification that works best for you. (Click for larger view)

Olympia – Starting July 1, 2018, the Department of Licensing (DOL) will begin marking all standard driver licenses and ID cards with the language, “federal limits apply.”

The change aims to bring Washington into compliance with the federal Real ID Act, which requires all states to mark identification documents that do not comply with the federal law. Under Legislation signed (app.leg.wa.gov) by Gov. Jay Inslee, DOL expects to be in full compliance with the REAL ID Act by fall 2018.

Over the next two years, all Washington residents will have to make a choice about their identity documents. By October 1, 2020, standard driver licenses and ID cards will no longer be an acceptable form of identification for boarding domestic flights and entering some secure federal facilities, like military bases and nuclear power plants.

DOL’s enhanced driver licenses (EDLs) and enhanced ID (EIDs) cards are Real ID compliant, and valid for travel as are passports, permanent resident cards and military IDs.

Standard driver license and ID cards can continue to be used for the following:

  • Driving
  • Applying for or receiving federal benefits
  • Entering a federal facility that does not require ID (post office)

An enhanced driver license or ID card is completely voluntary and optional. Some commonly needed documents to get an EDL/EID are certified birth certificate, U.S. passport or military ID.

full list of document options for obtaining an enhanced driver license or ID card is available on the DOL website.

“If you know you will not be flying or already have a federally approved document such as a U.S. passport, passport card or military ID, you do not need an enhanced driver license or ID card,” said DOL Director Pat Kohler.  “There is plenty of time to educate yourself on all options and choose the identification that works best for you.”

For a full list of federally accepted documents and information about REAL ID and what it means for Washington, visit the DOL website.


Recent KING 5 report about DOL facial recognition program contained a false statement

January 24, 2012

Individuals who fraudulently obtain Washington state driver licenses and ID cards present a serious risk to the safety and economic health of our residents and businesses. To fight this type of illegal activity, DOL has been working with the State Legislature for several years to obtain the authority to use a proven, non-invasive facial recognition system already in use for our Enhanced Driver License program to monitor regular driver license and ID card transactions for potential fraud.

In a story broadcast during the 11 p.m. newscast on January 23, 2012, KING 5 stated that DOL operated facial recognition software for regular driver license and ID card transactions without legal authority. This is a false statement. DOL was fully authorized to operate this system as a pilot program by our state’s 2009-2011 transportation budget. This budget, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor on May 13, 2009, contained this provision:

“(7) The department may seek federal funds to implement a driver’s license and identicard biometric matching system pilot program to verify the identity of applicants for, and holders of, drivers’ licenses and identicards. If funds are received, the department shall report any benefits or problems identified during the course of the pilot program to the transportation committees of the legislature upon the completion of the program.”

The pilot program ended when the 2009-2011 transportation budget expired. We are now working with the Legislature to make the use of this technology a permanent part of our processes.

DOL appreciates KING 5’s efforts to keep the public informed about the use of our facial recognition system, but it is important for the public to understand that DOL has not used this system in any way that was not fully authorized by law.

The use of facial recognition in our Enhanced Driver License program and in our regular driver license and ID card processes during the pilot program from November 2009 through June 2011 has demonstrated a need to have this system in place to make sure DOL is doing everything possible to protect public safety and the personal identity information of our state’s residents.

The use of facial recognition in our Enhanced Driver License program and our pilot program has identified three primary reasons individuals fraudulently obtain multiple driver licenses or ID cards. These are:

• To continue driving after a driver license suspension or revocation

• To purchase or consume alcohol as a minor

• To engage in criminal activities including identity theft

In 2011, the use of facial recognition by our agency resulted in 571 driver license suspensions and the cancellation of 560 fraudulent records and the associated cards. We also are working our way through 3,800 more cases of fraud identified by the facial recognition system during the pilot program.

Our facial recognition system also has allowed us to identify cases where individuals were maintaining multiple identities to fraudulently collect benefits through state entitlement programs.