Everything You Need to Know About the REAL ID

A WI REAL ID with a star in the upper right.

The Federal Government is standardizing how state ID cards and driver licenses are produced and issued. The result is a REAL ID. Due to concerns about DMV access during COVID-19, the deadline was moved from October 1, 2020 to October 1, 2021, to ensure everyone has enough time to get their REAL ID cards.

This article answers the most frequently asked questions about the REAL ID, explains how it differs from the free Wisconsin voter ID, clarifies its uses and describes how you can get yours.

Frequently Asked Questions About the REAL ID:

Q: What is the REAL ID?
A: Established in 2005, the REAL ID Act creates a standard form of identification at the federal level. This was recommended by the 9/11 Commission to standardize the forms of ID to be accepted in federal facilities.

Q: Why is the REAL ID important for me to know about?
A: Starting Friday, October 1, 2021, you will need a REAL ID to access federal facilities, including courthouses, post offices, the Social Security Administration, and municipal buildings. You will also need a REAL ID to board commercial airplanes. Without one, a passport will be required to fly or access these buildings. Your current state ID or driver license will not be useable to gain access to these places after October 1, 2021. Your REAL ID can be used for voting identification purposes, just as your current state ID or driver license.

Q: How do I know if I have a REAL ID?
A: Each REAL ID has a star at the top right-hand corner of the card. This star is not tactile. REAL ID’s of each state look a little different; Wisconsin’s REAL ID has a mu symbol, which is tactile. It looks and feels like a wavy letter M.

Q: How can I get a REAL ID?
A: You will need to visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) customer service center to get a REAL ID. While renewals can be done online, it is necessary to go in-person to get a REAL ID for the first time. It is recommended that you go sooner rather than later, as your local DMV might offer limited hours. Keep in mind that lines and wait times will get longer as the deadline to get the REAL ID draws nearer. Visit the Wisconsin DMV website to find your nearest DMV location and hours.

Q: What documentation will I need?
A: When you visit your local DMV, bring the following items. While you need one item for each category, some items like passports and birth certificates can be used for multiple categories. Visit this site for full details. Make sure you have all documentation organized and with you before going to visit your DMV.

You’ll need:

  • Proof of Name and Date of Birth: Use a U.S. passport, birth certificate, permanent resident card, certificate of naturalization, or a certificate of U.S. citizenship.
  • Proof of Legal Presence in the U.S.: A U.S. passport, birth certificate, permanent resident card, certificate of naturalization, or a certificate of U.S. citizenship will work for this category as well.
  • Proof of Identity: Use a photo drivers’ license or photo ID, a U.S. passport or passport card, a marriage certificate, or a photo college ID card from a U.S. university, college or technical college that has student name and photograph.
  • Proof of Name Change (if applicable): Use a marriage certificate, certified record of divorce, certified court order or valid unexpired passport issued in your current name.
  • Proof of Social Security Number: Use a social security card, a W-2 form, an SSA-1099 form, a non-SSA-1099 form with entire social security number listed, or a paystub with your name and entire social security number listed.
  • Proof of Address: Use a paycheck or paystub issued within the last 90 days, a utility bill, a mobile phone bill, a bank statement, a valid Wisconsin hunting or fishing license, a mortgage or rental agreement, a homeowners or renters insurance policy, or a school transcript or college enrollment documentation.

Q: What is the cost of the REAL ID?
A: To get a new REAL ID, the cost is $15. However, if your driver license or state ID is up for renewal, there is no cost for the REAL ID upgrade if done at the same time as your renewal.

Did You Know? Wisconsin is the only state to issue a free voting photo ID. Visit the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website to learn how to get a free ID for voting purposes.

Q: How is the REAL ID different from the free voter ID issued by Wisconsin?
A: The REAL ID will provide access to federal buildings and you can use it to fly commercially; the free Wisconsin voter ID cannot be used for these activities after Friday, October 1, 2021. You can use your REAL ID as your voter ID.

Q: Can I get a REAL ID after the October 1, 2021 deadline?
A: Yes. It is recommended that you do so beforehand to avoid long lines and so you can access things like flights and federal buildings right when the rule goes into place.

Q: Where can I go to learn more?
A: Visit the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website to learn more.

Obtaining a current REAL ID card guarantees you have access to air travel and federal buildings. Make a plan to get your REAL ID over the next year.

Do you know someone who could benefit from this information? Consider passing this message along to a friend or family member who may find it helpful.

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