TALES FROM THE DMV
500 days. That’s how many days are left before all Americans boarding a commercial aircraft, or accessing a federal facility such as a military base, will need to show a form of REAL ID. If you’re leaving Alaska in September of 2020, and intending to come back after Oct. 1, you’ll need a REAL ID of some sort to get on a jet.
But because of State of Alaska working days, you only have about 352 days until you must have your paperwork in order.
REAL ID is generally a U.S. passport or a state-issued driver’s license or identity card that has a few more bells and whistles. Military ID and some Native IDs are REAL ID compliant.
The State of Alaska began in January issuing these souped-up drivers licenses with a star in the top righthand corner.
This author went through the process last week and can report that it’s not that bad. Here are the Pro-tips:
At the Benson Blvd Department of Motor Vehicles, Tuesday morning seemed safe enough. I arrived when the offices opened at 9 am only to find a line trailed out the door.
Once inside, a helpful DMV employee asked me what I needed, and then handed me the form to fill out for a REAL ID. I pulled a number from the take-a-number machine and found a seat. The helpful DMV lady brought me a clipboard.
The worst part of the experience was gathering all my documents. Go through the online checklist here to be sure you have the right docs.
The best part was the workforce at DMV — they are amazingly customer friendly and considerate. This has been my experience every time I’ve dealt with them.
I had brought with me all the documents: A Social Security Card, a valid passport, and two recent pieces of mail to my home address that had an actual cancellation stamp on it to show it was less than 90 days old. I suggest a power bill, if you are getting them at your home address. I brought a few more items of mail just to be safe — official mail from the federal government and a letter from my mom seemed a safe bet. I brought a Voter ID card with my address. My birth certificate. My membership at the state-owned Rabbit Creek Shooting Park. My Acai Alaska punch card.
OK, I overdid it on the document front, but that’s what I recommend. There’s no sense in waiting for 20 minutes and then having to return another day because you don’t have the required proof of who you are.
The toughest part was the wait. It is 20 minutes of your life you’ll never get back, but as time passes, that Oct. 1 deadline is going to make the lines just longer, and ratchet up the urgency of getting it done. And, the people watching is epic. Check the waiting times and web cams here before you go.
They’ll take your photo again, so run a comb through your hair. And no smiling with your teeth showing. That’s not allowed anymore. The no-grin rule messes with the facial recognition software in use around the country.
They’ll also check your eyesight, but you don’t have to take another driving test.
That was it. It took about an hour altogether.
I left with … a photocopy of my new license, and a punch through my old license. The new license is supposed to arrive by mail from Fort Wayne, Indiana. This central issuance of REAL ID feels a lot like a federal ID program, which makes some strict constitutionalists very uncomfortable. But, as with a passport, they are not handing these things out over the counter. They’re mailed from a secure facility and arrive about two weeks after you’ve gone through the process.
The temporary paper license is valid for 60 days and has a barcode on it and the pertinent information. You’ll want to keep your punched license with you. But if you travel a lot, like I do, this is an extra consideration; you’ll want to keep your passport handy until your license arrives. You can check the status of the whereabouts of your REAL ID here.
What if you live in a community that doesn’t have a DMV? You’re up a creek without a paddle. Go to the DMV website for help for rural areas of the state, or be smart and plan your trips to town around this task.
Oct. 1, 2020 is the drop-dead date for getting your REAL ID house in order. As the date gets closer, you’ll hear TSA agents say things like, “Oh look, how quaint, an Alaska driver’s license with no REAL ID star. That is so cute.” Don’t wait until Oct. 1 for “cute” to become “no flying for you today.”
The Alaska REAL ID is not mandatory if you don’t fly or need to get into a nuclear power plant or military base, but if you want one it will cost your $40, double what a standard driver’s license costs. It’s $120 for a commercial license REAL ID. If you’re just getting a State ID with no driver’s license, it’s $35.