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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

What you need to know about renewing your driver’s license and Real ID

Margaret Henn, MVLS
Margaret Henn is the Director of Program Management at the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). MVLS focuses on housing, consumer, family, estate, tax, and criminal record relief issues for Marylanders of limited means. Photo Credit: John Waire, The WaireHouse

Question: I received a notice that my driver’s license was expiring, but when I went to the MVA to try to renew it, they turned me away because my name didn’t match exactly on all my documents. What do I do?

Answer: Unfortunately, a lot of Marylanders are experiencing the same challenge as you when trying to renew their driver’s license or state identification. Your problem is caused by new requirements imposed by the REAL ID Act. You may have heard the term REAL ID, but what does it mean? The REAL ID Act requires two things. 1) The MVA must create licenses that are hard to tamper with; and 2) individuals must provide required documents to prove their identity. To receive the updated REAL ID compliant card, you must prove your age, identity, social security, and Maryland residency. Age and identity are most often proved by a birth certificate or a passport and social security by an original social security card or tax documents like a W-2 or 1099. Residency can be proved through a variety of documents, including vehicle registration, bank account statement, utility bill, lease, mortgage statement, etc.

As you mentioned, if your name does not match exactly on all of your documents, the MVA will likely not be able to issue you a REAL ID. This can prove to be a particular problem for certain groups of people: some older adults are experiencing problems when they arrive at the MVA with their issued birth registration, rather than a birth certificate, which is not an acceptable document. Women who have been married and/or divorced and changed their names must provide additional court documents.

It is not uncommon for someone to have a birth certificate with a name listed that is a bit different than the name someone has listed on the driver’s license and/or social security card. These individuals may have to seek a name change through the Courts to align their documents. Readers may be wondering why they should worry about becoming REAL ID compliant. In order to use your driver’s license at an airport or to enter a federal facility, you will need to have your REAL ID by May 3, 2023.

If your driver’s license is set to expire by that deadline, you will need to provide the necessary documents for REAL ID before then (it is possible this deadline will be extended if the pandemic related state of emergency is still in effect). After May 3, 2023, your identification will be recalled. If your driver’s license is set to expire after the deadline you can wait to become REAL ID compliant until your expiration date, but you won’t be able to use your driver’s license for use at an airport or federal facility. If you’re not REAL ID compliant by either the deadline, or on your expiration date, your license or ID card will be recalled. If pulled over by the police your license will be taken, and you risk fines for driving without a valid license.

For people like the reader who posted this question, they may need to go through a lengthy name change process with the Courts to get their REAL ID. Therefore, readers should start thinking about this issue now, gathering the necessary documents and making sure they all match. If you are not sure whether you are REAL ID compliant already, you can check here: http://www.mva.maryland.gov/realid/rea lidlookup.html.

Margaret Henn is the Director of Program Management at the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). MVLS focuses on housing, consumer, family, estate, tax, and criminal record relief issues for Marylanders of limited means. MVLS does assist with name change cases, which are sometimes needed to get your Real ID, and can be reached at www.mvlslaw.org or 410- 547-6537 Mondays-Thursdays between 9am and 12pm.

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