Over a year after new Maryland driver's license rollout, the MVA realized it had a problem

When the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration unveiled its $3.5 million driver’s license redesign in a May 2016 news conference, poster boards touted the new Maryland flag theme, and a heaping pile of confiscated fake IDs sat on a table, emphasizing the need for better security.

It wasn’t until 17 months later — after mailing out more than 1.6 million new driver’s licenses and ID cards to Marylanders across the state — that agency officials realized there was a major problem, according to emails obtained by The Baltimore Sun in a public records request.


The MVA had been collecting documentation of age, identity, Social Security and state residency from new Maryland drivers and those moving from other states since 2009. It was information the state needed to have on file by October 2020 for state IDs to comply with federal REAL ID requirements meant to make sure states uniformly authenticated identities.

But MVA had not been collecting that same paperwork from drivers renewing their licenses — more than half of those who received the REAL IDs.


That meant 844,840 Marylanders needed to return with the proper paperwork, MVA Administrator Christine Nizer wrote in an October 2017 email to the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID program.

Nearly 10 percent of those people would be returning anyway because their IDs would expire before the federal government’s October 2020 deadline for REAL ID compliance, according to Nizer’s email.

But for more than three-quarters of a million Marylanders, it meant an extra trip to the dreaded MVA.

“The total number of individuals who are not scheduled to return prior to October 2020 but received a product with a Real ID Star,” Nizer wrote, “is 761,235.”

In addition to notifying all of them, Nizer told the feds, the MVA needed five more months to install a programming upgrade to its Driver’s Licensing System “to allow these customers to present and have their documents reviewed and scanned, without obtaining a new product.”

“This programming change will be completed by the end of March 2018,” Nizer wrote.

The MVA began requiring the documents from customers renewing their licenses beginning in January 2018, starting with state employees “to ensure that the process is working smoothly,” she wrote.


“There will be thirty months remaining after deployment of this new process (until October 2020), which provides MDOT MVA with adequate capacity to bring back all these customers, using existing resources, within the required timeframe,” she wrote.

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To handle the expected crush of customers, the agency has expanded hours at many of its locations, hired more staff and opened temporary offices in Parkville and Columbia for REAL ID appointments.

You can check whether you need to submit updated documents by using an online tool at

If you do, here’s what’s required:


1. One proof of age and identity, such as an original or certified copy of your U.S. birth certificate or a valid U.S. passport (or one expired for less than five years). If your current legal name is different from what is listed on these documents, you will need to provide a government-issued marriage certificate, divorce decree or other court document to explain the name change.

2. One proof of Social Security, such as an original Social Security card, W-2 form or SSA-1099 (displaying your name and entire Social Security number).

3. Two proofs of Maryland residency, such as an insurance card, vehicle registration, credit card bill, utility bill, bank statement, or mail from a government agency. (They must display your name and Maryland residential address, and be from two separate organizations.)

Those who make appointments are guaranteed to be served within 15 minutes, according to the MVA.

For the record

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the amount of time between the rollout of the new IDs and the agency realizing that it needed to collect more paperwork from drivers. It was 17 months later. The Sun regrets the error.