Politics & Government

Upgrading your driver’s license for Real ID? Bring your documents

Gov. Greitens signs Real ID bill

Here are the answers to your questions, including "Do I need to run out get a new driver's license?"
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Here are the answers to your questions, including "Do I need to run out get a new driver's license?"

The next time you renew your Kansas driver’s license, you may want to bring your Social Security card and your birth certificate or U.S. passport.

And, if your name has changed through marriage, you may have to bring your marriage license too.

On Oct. 1, 2020, three years from Sunday, Kansans must have upgraded identification that complies with the federal Real ID Act to board domestic flights and enter some federal facilities like military bases.

Federal identification like a U.S. passport or military ID will still get you past airport security. But if you rely on showing your state-issued driver’s license to TSA at the airport, you’ll need one that’s compliant with Real ID.

To obtain Real ID-compliant identification, people must show proof of their Social Security number with documents like a Social Security card or current W-2. They also have to provide a birth certificate or U.S. passport.

Kansas is about two months into issuing Real ID-compliant drivers’ licenses.

“It’s been a … mixture of people having the documents that they need and also people having to go back and then get what they need and return,” said Breana Berroth, the Kansas Department of Revenue’s driver’s license manager.

People who are getting a Kansas driver’s license for the first time are already required to bring documents to prove their lawful U.S. status and Social Security number, Berroth said.

“For your original issuance, you’re going to have those documents already, most likely,” she said. “But for your renewals, you probably won’t. That’s why we’re seeing a mixture.”

If your name is not the same on all your documents, you will need to provide a document “proving your legal name change,” according to a state brochure.

Some need marriage license

Proving a legal name change has frustrated some, like Topeka resident Windi Thomas. Thomas got her renewal form in the mail, which asked her to bring a utility bill, Social Security card and birth certificate or U.S. passport.

“So I had a strict list of things that I needed to bring, whether I chose to get a Real ID or just renew,” she said. “So I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and get the whole thing done.”

Thomas brought a utility bill to prove her address, her Social Security Card and birth certificate. But she was told she needed a marriage license.

“The reason I was given was they have to be able to go from my maiden name on my birth certificate to my married name on my current ID,” Thomas told The Eagle. “Someone next to me was being told the very same thing.”

“Nowhere on anything did it say you needed a marriage license,” Thomas said. “They (The office employees) agreed it wasn’t on there. But that didn’t, you know, help me once I sat in line for two hours.”

Thomas decided to renew her regular license without Real ID compliance, which is still a valid form of state identification.

“I didn’t know if I could get back (to the DMV) before my license actually expires in November,” she said. “So I didn’t want to risk that.”

Thomas said she’ll go back to the DMV at some point to get Real ID compliant. For Thomas and other Kansans, there’s still plenty of time – the deadline for an upgrade is Sept. 30, 2020.

Thomas said she was irritated with the experience though she didn’t blame anyone personally. But Thomas hopes the state can better communicate the need to prove legal name changes from birth certificates, through marriage or otherwise.

“There’s plenty of room to put a side note or something about that,” she said.

Berroth said the marriage license issue has popped up “with many states that have already rolled this out as well as us.”

“It’s hard to capture everything in the brochure that we send out without giving everybody too much information overload,” Berroth said. “Not everybody is name changing because they got married. It could be an adoption. It could be just if they wanted to change their name.”

‘Bring all their documents’

Kansas began rolling out new, Real ID-compliant licenses on Aug. 1. Many of the 2.5 million license holders in the state have license renewal dates before the 2020 deadline anyway, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue last month.

You can choose to renew your license with or without Real ID compliance, like Windi Thomas did.

Berroth said driver’s license office clerks bring up Real ID compliance with most transactions.

“They talk to the people and ask them if it’s something that they want to pursue today,” Berroth said. “They go over the deadlines, the dates.”

The revenue department has been asking for Real ID information since 2011, so your information may already be on file. But Berroth said Kansans should err on the side of bringing the necessary documents.

“I would hate to say that ‘This person is okay’ and then they’re not,” Berroth said. “They’re encouraged to bring all their documents in. And if they don’t (need them), then it’s just a bonus that they’re already good to go in the system.”

If you have a license with a renewal date after the 2020 cutoff, you will need to visit a drivers’ license office before then if you want a Real ID-compliant license. The cost to get the new license – with a gold star in the corner noting that it is compliant – is $8.

Revenue department spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said the department will do some public-awareness campaigning and messaging within the next six months.

“This is something that’s going on. Obviously, most people don’t think about their driver’s license every day,” Whitten said. “We’re working on trying to reach as many eyes as possible in Kansas.”

The Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, set minimum security standards for identification nationwide.

Some have worried it could amount to an invasion of privacy, potentially allowing the federal government to gather personal information on a mass scale. But proponents argue Real ID will hurt terrorists’ ability to use fraudulent identification by making identity documents more consistent and secure.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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