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The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 after the 9/11 commission recommended more secure forms of personal identification and to set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s license and identification cards for states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.

The driver’s licenses and IDs under the REAL ID Act will include the current information along with a common barcode and security devices to prevent any tampering with or counterfeiting of the card. A star will be displayed in the upper right-hand corner signifying that your identification has been approve and verified by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Under this Act, each state must agree to share its database of licensed citizens and drivers with all other states including driver histories and records.

Massachusetts does not currently meet the Act’s requirements. However, on Wednesday, October 12, 2015 Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation that endeavors to bring Massachusetts into compliance with the Federal REAL ID Act. Governor Baker’s bill would create a two-tiered system for the issuance of driver’s licenses by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Residents will be given a choice of applying for the new license that meets the standards of REAL ID or be issued a lawful permanent or temporary residency status.

“This legislation is required for Massachusetts to continue to be able to offer our customers a card that is acceptable as federal identification” said Registry of Motor Vehicles Registrar Erin Deveney. If a resident chooses not to apply for the new license they would not be able to use their license to enter Federal buildings or board domestic flights when the new rules are implemented as soon as 2020.

In response to Governor Baker’s bill Massachusetts has been granted an extension by DHS to act in accordance with the REAL ID Act. Massachusetts has until October, 2016 to comply with the standards.

Links to the REAL ID statute and regulations, along with supporting documents, may be found on the DHS website. For a list of requirements used in making determinations, please contact the DHS Office of State Issued Identity Support


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