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.


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.


DOL Director Teresa Berntsen honors organ donors, families for “ultimate act of kindness”

April 4, 2019
Teresa Berntsen speaks at award ceremony honoring organ donors

Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen speaks Thursday at the Gift of Life Award ceremony honoring organ donors and their loved ones.

Calling organ donation “the ultimate act of kindness,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen expressed humility, admiration, and gratitude for organ donors during an emotional ceremony Thursday at the Capitol building in Olympia. The event honored Washington state residents who gave organs in 2018 and their families.

The Gift of Life Award is presented annually by the governor’s office in partnership with LifeCenter Northwest, a federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organization that serves Washington, Alaska, Montana, and north Idaho.

Prior to introducing Gov. Jay Inslee, Berntsen said organ donation “exemplifies the graciousness of our humanity.”

The Department of Licensing has long played a key role in connecting people in need of organ transplants with donors. More than 99 percent of organ donor registrations in Washington are facilitated by DOL.

“Whether it is in person, online, or by mail, by saying ‘yes’ to donation through our agency, we are able to support legal authorization for people to donate all organs, eyes, and tissues for life-saving or -enhancing transplants,” Berntsen said.

As of March 1, 1,683 people in Washington were on the organ transplant waiting list, according to figures from the United Network for Organ Sharing. It is estimated 20 people die each day waiting for an organ donation.

Learn how to become an organ donor.


Picture this: Cameras at every licensing service office counter

March 26, 2019
Tacoma licensing service office

The Tacoma licensing service office served as the model for 25 other locations getting cameras at every customer service touchpoint. This will allow customers to stay with the same representative and have their photo taken without moving to another area.

After a pilot program at the Tacoma licensing service office (LSO) proved successful, the Washington State Department of Licensing is rolling out workstation cameras at 25 of its other offices.

The changes are expected to improve service and efficiency by keeping customers with the same DOL representative, at the same counter, throughout a transaction. Traditionally, customers were directed to another area to have their photo taken before returning to the original counter.

Best of all? Cameras at each station will reduce wait times.

“I am excited to continue to enhance workflow and the customer experience at our LSOs,” said Jean Fetterly, DOL’s acting assistant director for Customer Relations.

Tacoma aside, offices getting cameras include:

  • Lynnwood
  • Seattle West
  • Seattle Downtown
  • Kent
  • Shoreline
  • Puyallup
  • Parkland
  • Federal Way
  • Bel-Red
  • Spokane
  • Spokane Valley
  • Renton
  • Lacey
  • Everett
  • Bremerton
  • Poulsbo
  • Smokey Point
  • Bellingham
  • Kennewick
  • Union Gap
  • Vancouver North
  • Vancouver East
  • Mount Vernon
  • Wenatchee
  • Kelso

All work is expected to be completed by June 2019.

To install the 300 new cameras, 23 of the 26 locations — among DOL’s busiest — need facility modifications. In most cases, these will happen on normal off days. Due to limited contractor availability, a few offices will temporarily close as follows:

  • Seattle West: Friday and Saturday, May 17-18
  • Smokey Point: Tuesday, June 18
  • Spokane: Friday, June 21
  • Spokane Valley: Tuesday, June 25

Find an alternative location, if needed.

Starting in August 2018, DOL began testing cameras at four workstations in Tacoma. The pilot was a success, resulting in shorter transaction times. As a result, in mid-March DOL expanded the pilot to include all 14 workstations in Tacoma.

Feedback from customers and staff alike has been positive.

“This is the biggest change affecting office workflow in a positive way during my 24 years with DOL,” said Jay Glenn, a licensing service representative supervisor in Tacoma.


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.


Washington signs driver license agreement with Taiwan

August 7, 2014

reciprocity-agreement-signing-080514-1OLYMPIA— A new driver license reciprocity agreement between Taiwan and Washington state will make life a little easier for drivers wanting to transfer a license from one place to the other.

The agreement allows Taiwan nationals living in Washington, such as university students, to skip the driving and written licensing exams if they are already licensed to drive in Taiwan. It gives the same option to Washington residents living in Taiwan.

“This agreement allows the Department of Licensing to honor the driving tests previously taken by a citizen of Taiwan just like we would when serving a currently licensed driver from another state,” Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler said.

Driver licensing officials here and in Taiwan worked together to evaluate each other’s driver licensing requirements and testing processes. This ensures drivers who hold either license are fully qualified to operate a vehicle safely in both places.

The agreement was finalized at a signing ceremony on August 5th in Olympia. Director General Andy Chin of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle joined Licensing Director Kohler in signing the agreement.

The agreement takes effect immediately. Drivers from Taiwan seeking a Washington license will need to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle to have their current license properly translated and verified prior to visiting a DOL driver licensing office.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen signed the agreement as a witness when it was signed by Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei during a trade and cultural mission in June.

“I see this agreement as a small, but important step—one of many—that have been taken in recent times to make commerce, travel and tourism that much easier between Taiwan and the state of Washington,” Owen said.

This is Washington’s fourth international driver license reciprocity agreement. The state has similar agreements with British Columbia, South Korea, and Germany.


State begins rolling out six-year driver licenses on February 10

February 6, 2014
WA DOL

WA DOL

Beginning February 10, all new driver license applicants will receive a license that’s valid for six years, as the Department of Licensing starts transitioning from a five-year to a six-year driver license.

New driver license applicants include individuals applying for their first license and those who are transferring their licenses from another state.

The per-year cost for a driver license will remain at $9 per year, but new applicants will pay for the additional year, which changes the fee from $45 to $54, not including the $35 application fee.

Adding a new motorcycle endorsement for up to six years will cost $2 per year.

Washingtonians who are obtaining their first Washington state ID cards will also be issued a card valid for six years beginning on February 10, at a cost of $54, or $9 per year.

Those renewing a current Washington driver licenses or ID cards will start transitioning to a six-year renewal period later this year.

In 2012, the Washington State Legislature authorized extending driver’s license terms from five to six years to improve customer service by reducing customer volumes and wait times in driver license offices.