REAL ID rush is coming: Avoid the crowds by renewing 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.


Updated Washington Driver Guide now available online and in licensing offices

February 20, 2019

Washington Driver GuideAn updated version of the Washington Driver Guide, which outlines the rules for Washington’s roads and highways, is now online and available for download in seven languages. Hard copies are available in field offices across the state.

All versions of the guide are free.

The guide’s first revision since July 2017 adds new material on, among other things, safely exiting a vehicle; work zones; railroad crossings and the Emergency Notification System (ENS); bicycle boxes and safety; and ferry holding lanes.

You’ll also find information about REAL ID, a federal law that goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2020. As of that date, a standard driver license will no longer allow a person to travel by plane or access certain federal facilities. Learn more about REAL ID and what you’ll need.

The Department of Licensing periodically works with state, federal, and local partners to develop the driver guide, which is used by licensing offices and driver training schools as part of curriculum and testing. It’s a great resource not only for aspiring drivers, but also for long-licensed residents seeking a refresher or clarification on evolving traffic laws.

The guide covers a wide variety of topics, regulations, and signage that drivers need to be aware of in order to safely and legally operate a motor vehicle in the state.

“Careful attention to our driving actions and decisions is critical to making our roads safe for everyone,” DOL Director Teresa Berntsen writes in the guide, noting that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16- to 25-year-olds in the state. “The rules and best practices in this guide are proven tactics to save lives.”

To support DOL’s ongoing efforts to make Washington’s roads safer, Berntsen encourages readers to learn about Target Zero, the state’s ambitious traffic safety plan. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by 2030.

For that to happen, new and established drivers alike will need to lead the way. It starts with knowing the rules of the road, eliminating distractions, and patience and consideration behind the wheel.

To help, DOL offers a wealth of information on its website. You’ll find practice driver tests in English and Spanish, as well as step-by-step instructions for getting a license.

The latest version of the Washington Driver Guide features cover scenery from the Columbia River Gorge and is available in English, Spanish, Chinese (traditional), Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Japanese. There are separate guides for motorcycle and sidecar use and commercial drivers.


DOL to hold public hearings on REAL ID marking for standard driver licenses

May 1, 2018

WA State Dept of Licensing

Olympia – In May, the Department of Licensing will hold six public hearings across the state to receive public comment on the proposed marking of standard driver licenses and ID cards that will start this summer.  This rulemaking is part of the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act that all states are required to comply with by October 2020.

Hearings will be held May 8 – 11, and May 22 & 23 in Lacey, Kent, Spokane, Kennewick, Mount Vernon and Yakima. The agenda for the hearings will include a general REAL ID presentation with time for questions, followed by the formal public hearing on the marking. There is also a link on the DOL website to submit comments on the proposed rule for those that can’t attend one of the hearings.

Starting July 1, DOL plans to begin marking all standard driver licenses and ID cards with the proposed language, “federal limits apply.” The federal Real ID Act requires states to mark identification documents that are not Real ID compliant. Beginning October 1, 2020, standard driver licenses and ID cards are not an acceptable form of identification for boarding commercial airplanes and entering some secure federal facilities, like military bases and nuclear power plants.

The public hearing schedule is as follows:

May 8, 2018
2:30 p.m.

Lacey City Hall
College St SE
Lacey, WA 98503

May 9, 2018
10 a.m.

Kent Memorial Park
850 N. Central Ave.
Kent, WA 98032

May 10, 2018
9 a.m.

Spokane City Hall
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201

May 11, 2018
9 a.m.

Southridge Sports & Event Complex
2901 Southridge Blvd #A
Kennewick, WA 99338

May 22, 2018
6 p.m.

Skagit Station Community Room
105 E. Kincaid
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

May 23, 2018
6 p.m.

Laborers International Union Hall
507 South 3rd Street
Yakima, WA 98901

Washington State’s enhanced driver licenses (EDLs) and enhanced ID (EIDs) cards are considered Real ID compliant, as are passports,  green cards and military IDs. For a full list of federally accepted documents and information about REAL ID and what it means for Washington, visit the DOL website.

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Update: No federal announcement about new identification requirements for air travel

December 31, 2015

Starting January 10, 2016, standard Washington state driver licenses and ID cards may no longer be accepted as a standalone identity document at a limited number of secure federal facilities.

This change does not affect commercial airline travel. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicated they would announce when and how REAL ID enforcement would affect air travel at commercial airports by the end of 2015. DHS has not announced this information and has not provided updated information about when they plan to. While many media reports indicate this change will affect air travel in January, in April, or “sometime in 2016,” no information released from DHS supports these reports.

Even under REAL ID, most services provided by the federal government do not require identification to be presented, and that will not change. Washington residents who do not have a federally compliant document will still have access to federal courts, Social Security offices, federal health care facilities, national parks and other public benefits.

The Department of Licensing this week was provided further clarity from the federal General Services Administration, the agency that manages logistics at most federal facilities. They indicate that there are five federal facilities in Washington State that will be subject to REAL ID enforcement—requiring federally acceptable identification documents for entry into these facilities, or requiring secondary screening for persons that do not have a federally acceptable document. The facilities are:

  • U.S. Department of Justice – Seattle Immigration Court, 1000 2nd Ave.
  • Non-customer service federal offices in the 5th and Yesler Building, 300 5th, Seattle
  • Non-customer service areas of Seattle Federal Building, 1200 6th
  • Non-customer service areas of Spokane U.S. Courthouse, 920 W. Riverside Ave.
  • Non-customer service areas of Vancouver Federal Building, 500 W. 12th

However, according to the GSA, a facility security committee could adopt “alternative access control procedures” for these five facilities that would allow individuals to use a standard driver license to enter. It will become important to contact these types of secure federal facilities before visiting if you do not have one of the types of identification documents listed below:

  • Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Card
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Transportation worker identification credential (TWIC card)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card

This change on January 10 will not have significant impacts on most Washington residents. Washingtonians are encouraged to investigate all of their options for obtaining a federally acceptable ID document like a U.S. Passport/Passport Card, state Enhanced Driver License/ID card, or other ID documents that will be accepted by federal agencies to enter secure federal facilities.

REAL ID was passed by Congress in 2005 and has seen a number of implementation delays. Washington is among 24 states that have been operating with a REAL ID compliance extension because our regular driver licenses and ID cards do not meet all 41 different REAL ID requirements. In October, 2015, DHS denied our state’s request for another compliance extension which makes Washington state subject to the REAL ID enforcement schedule.

Over the past several years, Washington’s driver licenses and ID cards have met many of the REAL ID requirements (21 out of 41) by adopting national best practices for driver license and ID card security—done regardless of the REAL ID Act. Washington is one of five states that issue Enhanced Driver Licenses and ID cards, which are valid for federal purposes.