How to Get a New Driver’s License

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Check your wallet if you are looking to travel without a passport. It may be necessary to exchange your old, ruined driver’s license with a new one that is enhanced with a star that allows for you to board a plane.

Real ID is a driver’s licence that can be used to prove federal identity. States are introducing it. To board domestic flights, you will need a Real ID driver’s license (the one with the star) by Oct. 1, 2020. A five-state enhanced driver’s licence will work, but requires additional documentation.

A Real ID, or enhanced driver’s licence, requires you to meet additional requirements than a regular driver’s license renewal. Here’s how to get your new driver’s license, whether it’s an enhanced license, Real ID or the traditional type.

How to obtain a Real ID driver’s license

You must present a variety of documents to your state’s licensing office in order to upgrade your standard driver’s license to Real ID.

You will need your paperwork to:

  • You must prove that you are legally resident in the United States by obtaining a passport or naturalization document.
  • Show your full legal name, date and Social Security number.
  • Two documents can be used to prove your address. Options may include mortgage bills or current auto insurance ID cards.
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States have different requirements and accept different documents. Make sure you check before going. You may need to make an appointment in some states to obtain your Real ID.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, most states have already issued Real ID driver’s licences. The rest will offer them by October 2020.

A Real ID is the same price as a standard driver’s license in many states. Some states have a $10-$30 one-time fee for Real ID. You’ll usually pay the usual fee to get a replacement driver’s licence if you choose to upgrade to Real ID while your current driver’s license isn’t due for renewal.

With a Real ID, you won’t need a passport to board flights that stay within the U.S., but you’ll still need one for international travel. A Real ID can be used to enter federal facilities such as military bases, national laboratories, or federal courts.

If there is a black star or gold star at top of the license, or a star cutout on black background, you will know that it’s Real ID.

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How to obtain an enhanced driver’s licence

An enhanced driver’s licence, which is similar to a Real ID allows you to fly within the U.S. with no need for a passport. You can also cross the border to the U.S. without a passport if you have an enhanced driver’s license. This is possible from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean by land or water. You’ll still need a passport for an international flight, though.

Five states offer enhanced driver’s licenses. Michigan, Minnesota and New York are the only four states that offer enhanced driver’s licences. Washington only has the enhanced version.

You will need documents similar in nature to the Real ID required to upgrade to an enhanced driver’s license. Also, you will need proof of U.S. citizen such as a birth cert. To find out which documents are accepted by your state, check with your local licensing officer.

A standard driver’s license costs $15-30 more than an enhanced one. The enhanced driver’s licence is not marked with a star, like the Real ID. It is instead marked with an American flag.

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How to obtain a standard driver’s license

You can choose not to upgrade to a Real ID, enhanced driver’s licence if you are more interested in driving than flying. You can still get a standard driver’s license in most states. They are fine for driving, voting, and many other purposes.

It is easier to get a Real ID or enhanced driver’s license if you have an existing valid standard driver’s license in your state. With no additional documentation, you may be able handle everything online or via mail.

You will need to show proof of residency in your state. If your license was suspended, you may also need to show proof that you have auto insurance in at least the state-mandated minimums. When you apply for a driver’s licence, some states require that you pass vision and writing tests. For more information, check the requirements for your state.

A standard driver’s licence will usually be marked to indicate that it cannot be used for federal identification. However, you can still use other documents when flying. Among the options are a passport, military ID, or trusted traveler card such as Global Entry.

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Your standard driver’s licence will allow you to pass through security at airports for domestic flights up until October 1, 2020.

When do you need a new driver’s license?

Millions of drivers will soon upgrade to Real ID licenses. It’s a good idea if you need one to board flights beginning in October 2020. Waiting until the last minute can lead to long lines.

You can use your current license if you don’t need a Real ID/empowered driver’s license.

Here are some other circumstances where you might need a new driver’s license.

  • You have never held a driver’s licence. You will need to pass the written, vision, and driving test in order to get your first license. You will then need to produce documents that prove your identity. You will need to provide documentation to prove your identity.
  • You have recently moved to another state. You’ll need a new driver’s license if you relocate to a new state. You can usually transfer a valid license from another state and get your new license without having to take all the required tests.
  • You have lost or stolen your driver’s license. You will need a replacement license quickly if your license is lost or stolen. It’s illegal to drive without it. The replacement fee is usually lower than the initial fee. A Maine license costs $30 initially, but a replacement cost only $5.
  • Your driver’s licence has been suspended or revoked. You will need to show proof that you have paid all fines and attended any court-ordered programs. You may need an SR-22 form from your auto insurer, showing you have at least your state’s minimum required liability insurance. You may also need to pass vision, written and road tests in some cases.
  • Your driver’s license may be about to expire or is already expired. Most states require that you renew your driver’s licence every two to eight years. A notice should be sent to you advising you about the renewal deadline. If your license has been expired for a while (the length of time varies by state), you’ll have to take a driving test again before you can get a new valid license in some states.
  • You have recently immigrated to the U.S. As an immigrant, you can use an International Driving Permit along with your non-U.S. license to drive legally when you first arrive. Before you can move to the U.S., you must obtain the IDP in the country where your non-U.S. driving license was issued. After you have established U.S. residence, you will need an official driver’s licence from your new state.
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Driver’s license regulations vary from one state to the next. For more information, check with your state’s license-issuing agency.