BILLINGS — COVID-19 has pushed back a lot of dates and deadlines, creating devastation, disruption and life changes akin to the levels of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The US Congress enacted the Real ID Act in 2005 in response to the 9/11 attacks to make sure you are who you say you are. Now, the pandemic has altered that process and pushed off the Real ID deadline for Montanans another year. But that doesn't mean you should wait.
Whether you need to renew your Montana driver’s license anyway, or you want to beat the Real ID deadline so you can board an airplane on October 1, 2021, there are simple steps to make this happen.
First, head to mtrealid.gov, and schedule an appointment. Then review or download a checklist of what you need.
Real ID is optional, just as optional as getting a passport from the federal government. That accreditation will allow boarding on a plane to fly domestic and will also allow entrance into any federal building, such as a courthouse.
“We have seen a slow uptick on people getting the Real ID certification," says Rebecca Connors, the Montana bureau chief for the MVD Driver Services Bureau.“And I think that’s just due to awareness, and I think folks are now just aware of how to get Real ID, and now it’s the education piece of letting them know what documents you need to be able to do that.”
There are four components of documentation:
Proof of authorization, showing U.S. citizenship. That can be a birth certificate or a passport, but it must be certified.
“We have to be able to feel a seal. With information at the bottom. You can’t bring in copies. A lot of times it’s a photocopy, and we can’t accept that, unfortunately," said Tim Lucas, whose job is to help certify people with Real ID. He sees what people miss when they don’t prepare in advance.
The second component -- Social Security documentation, but there's a catch.
“It seems everyone in the ’60s and ’70s went through a phase of laminating their SS cards, and it cannot be laminated,” said Connors. "If that’s what you or your parents did to your card, you can instead, use a 1099 or a W2 that lists your full Social Security number, or an unlaminated social security card.”
Third: Two proofs of residency. Those include an electric bill, another utility bill, a bank statement, mortgage statement or pay stub that shows your current last name and current address. PO boxes are not accepted.
Fourth, the part many people miss: If your name has changed since birth, don’t forget a certified copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree.
Despite COVID-19, the MVD is working to make the process as pleasant as possible. “They just have (visions) of the DMV where it’s just been a nightmare in the past so we have tried to make it as safe as possible. We have it separated, we clean everything, and sanitize everything,” Lucas said.
If you have your checklist in order, it takes about 15 minutes. The cost varies depending on need, but to renew a driver’s license during renewal period and adding Real ID was $67.47.
And once it’s done, and that Real ID due date rolls around, COVID-19 may be your only concern when boarding an airplane.