Do you need to get a REAL ID in Washington?
You are not required by law to get a DMV REAL ID in Washington. This federally-compliant credential is only necessary in certain situations, and you are allowed to use other forms of identification if you prefer. Overall, you can still hold a standard driver license or ID card for most identification purposes. Because the federally-compliant credential is only needed in specific instances, you may not ever need to upgrade your standard card. However, make sure to apply for this type of credential if it is necessary to your circumstances. The situations in which a federal REAL ID or other federally-compliant forms of identification are necessary include:
- Boarding domestic flights
- Entering military bases
- Entering nuclear power plants
- Accessing certain federal facilities
Keep in mind that the REAL ID Act goes into effect across the United States on October 1, 2020. As such, make sure that you are prepared ahead of time by obtaining a REAL ID card or an alternate form of federally-compliant identification prior to that deadline. A few examples of valid identification that can be used to board a plane or enter federal facilities includes:
- S. passport
- Foreign government-issued passport
- Permanent resident card
- DHS trusted traveler cards
- S. Merchant Mariner Credential
If you have any of the credentials listed above, you can use those instead of a REAL ID card issued by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL). However, it is typically a simple process to get this upgraded credential. Thus, it may be in your best interest to upgrade your standard license or ID to an enhanced license if you meet the eligibility requirements.
REAL ID Requirements in Washington
You must meet all the Washington REAL ID requirements in order to obtain this type of state-issued credential from the DOL. To be eligible, you must be a WA resident and have a lawful status in the United States. As such, you must provide certain documents that are used to prove these pieces of information. All the documents needed for a REAL ID must be provided in person at a driver license service office. To get the credential, you must provide the following:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of Social Security Number (SSN)
- Proof of legal status in the U.S.
- Two proof of residency documents
- Proof of any name changes, if necessary
An enhanced license or ID card looks similar to a standard licenses and identification cards in Washington. However, it will include a star printed in the upper right-hand corner if it meets federal guidelines. Alternatively, you will not have that gold star on your drivers license if your credential does not meet these federal guidelines.
When to Get a Real ID in Washington
You can apply for a REAL ID in Washington at any time if you meet the eligibility requirements and are deemed a state resident. If you wish to save a trip to the DOL offices, you can obtain the credential when you renew your existing license or ID card. Otherwise, you may obtain a WA REAL ID card when you apply for a new license or identification credential. Furthermore, keep in mind that you can always visit a DOL branch to upgrade your standard card at any time, even if you are not within your renewal period.
How to Apply for a REAL ID in Washington
In order to get a Washington REAL ID for flying domestically, you must follow certain necessary steps. The process is very similar to what you must do in order to get a standard credential, except that additional verification documentation must be provided. This ensures that all residents obtaining the credential have had their identity properly verified, thus reducing fraudulent activity and increasing the security features of state-issued credentials.
You may obtain a WA REAL ID drivers license or identification card by visiting a driver licensing office in person and providing the appropriate paperwork, including proof of identity, legal U.S. status, Social Security Number (SSN) and state residency. You must also pay the applicable enhanced ID fees and other applicable fees. Once you have provided all the necessary documentation, your license or ID card will be upgraded to a secure ID.
Note: Make sure that you apply for the credential with adequate time before needing to board a plane or enter a federal facility or military base. In general, it may take a few weeks for your card to be sent by mail. If you do not have the proper credentials starting October 1, 2020, you will be denied access to a domestic flight or certain federal buildings.