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.


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 2020 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.