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Countdown to October 1, 2020: Obtaining Your SC Real ID

The Real I.D. is dentified by the gold star in the upper right corner.
Photo courtesy S.C. Dept. of Motor Vehicles

Beginning October 1st of this year, anyone who wishes to fly on a commercial aircraft, access a federal facility, or enter a military installation will be required to present their passport, military ID, or their Real ID. Back in 2005, Congress passed the “Real ID Act” in response to the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the Federal Government set the standard for the issuance of IDs, like driver’s licenses. To date, all 50 states and territories are fully compliant with the Real ID requirements. 

According to the U.S. Travel Association, as of October 2019, some 99 million Americans do not have Real ID-compliant identification. That means, if the Real ID went into effect tomorrow, almost 80,000 people trying to board a plane would be denied. The Department of Homeland Security announced that only 27 percent of Americans have been issued a Real ID so far. That backs up the findings of a survey by the U.S. Travel Association, which discovered that 57 percent of Americans do not know about the changing ID requirements. Nearly 40 percent of US citizens do not have a Real ID or any other form of identification that will be accepted by the TSA.

Currently, only 25% of all South Carolinians have procured their Real ID. We sat down with Lauren Phillips, the Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, to find out how South Carolinians are doing with regard to procuring their Real ID, and to clarify any possible confusion that may be hindering some residents from obtaining theirs. Phillips says that currently, the SCDMV is issuing about 62,000 Real ID driver’s licenses and identification cards every month. Phillips believes by October 1st of this year, 40% of South Carolina residents will have their Real ID.

Phillips points out that, while there are other forms of ID that will allow for travel on a domestic commercial airline, such as a military ID or passport, those who do not have those forms of identification would do well to procure their Real ID, namely in times of emergency. Phillips said, “I think what our biggest concern is right now at the DMV is those people who don’t yet know they need one. You’ve got a relative who’s in an emergency, and you need to jump on an airplane immediately. Your first thought is not going to be, ‘I need to go to the DMV to get my Real ID.’ You’re first thought is going to be, ‘I need to get on an airplane to see my loved one,’ only to be potentially turned around at airport security if it’s after October 1, 2020.”

To get a Real ID, applicants need to present, or already have on file with the SCDMV, a proof of identity (such as a government-issued birth certificate or valid US passport); proof of social security number (such as a social security card, a 1099, a non-1099, a W-2, or a paystub that shows the applicant’s full name and full social security number); two proofs of the applicant’s current physical address; and if there’s been a name change, applicants also need to present legal documentation as proof of that change. Those who have had a name change must first go to the Social Security Administration to present legal proof of that change at least 48 hours before visiting the SCDMV to change their name for the Real ID. The proper documentation needed to make the change includes a marriage license or a court order issued by their county's family court.

Phillips says that when it comes to presenting proof of current physical address, the SCDMV not only accept bills, but other items, such as mortgage statements, a letter from a relative, a magazine subscription reflecting the applicant’s name, current South Carolina driver’s license or current South Carolina ID card, current vehicle registration, any piece of mail that received from municipal/county/state/federal government, voter registration card, or CWP. Phillips cautions applicants that the SCDMV does not allow two proofs of address from the same issuing authority, saying, “Your driver’s license could be one form of proof of address, and your vehicle registration could be a proof of address. Those are both issued by the DMV. So, you can’t use those two things. It’s the same for utility bills. We wouldn’t let you do a water bill from April and a water bill from May.”

For children applying for their Real ID, Phillips recommends presenting school records, a letter or birthday card from a relative, or an affidavit that parents can sign that affirms their child lives at home with them.

Children traveling with an adult who has a Real ID are not required to have their own Real ID to board a domestic commercial flight. However, Phillips points out that if a child could pass for someone who looks 18 years of age or older, it’s a good idea to go ahead and procure a Real ID for that child. In fact, children as young as 5 years old can be issued a Real ID.

In addition to being issued to US citizens, Real IDs are also issued to non-citizens who have a legal presence in the US.

A Real ID for those 5 to 16 years old is $15. Those who are 17 or older get their first Real ID for free, because it’s tied to voting privileges. Should a replacement be needed within 8 years’ issuance, there is now a $10 replacement fee.

Are all South Carolinians required to procure a Real ID? Phillips says no. “In South Carolina, there are so many pockets of our state where nuclear families, and even extended families, live within a two-mile radius within one another, and they are never going to have a reason to get on a plane, or they’re never going to have a reason to enter a military installation. They may not ever have a reason to enter a federal building. And if that’s the case for you, then you are totally fine continuing with your current, valid South Carolina driver’s license or identification card. That will still allow you to drive, vote, access non-secure federal buildings, receive life-saving services or hospital care. It allows you to participate in law enforcement proceedings, even at the federal level, so defending yourself in federal court and participating in jury duty. We get that question a lot, ‘If I don’t have a Real ID, am I going to get out of jury duty?’ The answer is, ‘No.’ We would just ask for you to come into the DMV like you would any other time, when your driver’s license or identification card is due for renewal.”

Phillips says that there are about 400,000 South Carolinians who are eligible to purchase their Real ID online, and that the SCDMV has recently mailed postcards to almost all those individuals. Phillips strongly urges those who have received such a postcard to take advantage of purchasing the Real ID online as a convenient way to obtain the Real ID without having to leave home, thereby being well-prepared for the changes that will be in place by October 1, 2020.

For further information on obtaining a Real ID, visit  http://www.scdmvonline.com/-/driver-services/drivers-license/real-id

Linda Núñez is a South Carolina native, born in Beaufort, then moved to Columbia. She began her broadcasting career as a journalism student at the University of South Carolina. She has worked at a number of radio stations along the East Coast, but is now happy to call South Carolina Public Radio "home." Linda has a passion for South Carolina history, literature, music, nature, and cooking. For that reason, she enjoys taking day trips across the state to learn more about our state’s culture and its people.