We recently learned that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating an automation process to simplify the process for getting a Real ID that will be a required state ID to board an aircraft as of October 1, 2020.
Passports will still be acceptable but many Americans don’t have them or don’t want to carry them on domestic trips. And the reports indicate that close to 100 million Americans have neither a Real ID nor a passport. The DHS process has a short turn-around: comments are due Dec. 9. But the complexity of the task suggests that even if there is a feasible technology to accomplish the task, it will take many months to complete the process of procuring, testing and initiating a new system that can be used by DMVs in all 50 states.
Until recently I was one of those with only a regular driver’s license. Wanting to avoid the coming long lines, I decided to convert it to a Real ID. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has an elaborate website that guides you through the various documents required to establish your identity and residence.
In reading these detailed lists and checkboxes, I failed to note that “Federal or NY State Income Tax or Earning Statement (SSA-1099) with full Social Security Number” refers not to a company’s Form 1099 but to an official Federal government (hence the SSA reference) document. After waiting about two hours at the DMV, my first effort to secure a Real ID was therefore rejected. I had to return with different documents.
The lesson of this experience is two-fold. First, you must follow the specifications precisely or your authenticating documents may be rejected. The DMV staff do not have much, if any, discretion to allow deviation from the rules.
If possible, everyone should take more than the minimum number of documents required, in case one of them is rejected. Second, from the DMV’s standpoint, the process of getting a Real ID is just part of the routine process of its daily business. No apparent expedited processing has been established to facilitate people seeking a Real ID regardless of the deadline next year. And the steps include getting a new photo.
The congestion that typically occurs at DMVs around the country is only to get worse, likely much worse, as the deadline approaches even if the number of travelers is less than the 100 million lacking both passports and Real IDs.
Travel advisors therefore should begin communicating with customers now. Encouraging customers to get Real IDs before the inevitable final rush is a great service advisors can perform for your customers. Despite the publicity about this issue within the industry, the reality is that many future travelers will not be aware of the need to act unless someone specifically urges them to do so.