More than 66,300 Marylanders who have gotten a new REAL ID driver’s license or identification card — but haven’t filed their identification and residency documents with the Motor Vehicle Administration — must do so in the next month or risk having their licenses recalled, the agency announced Thursday.
Any drivers in that group still using the Maryland flag-themed license after the June deadline will still be a licensed driver, but if they are pulled over by police, the license will be confiscated as part of the recall, and they’ll be required to get a new one, the agency said.
“Customers who are part of this group MUST come to a MDOT MVA branch with the required documents as soon as possible and are urged to make an appointment,” the MVA said in a statement.
June is the first in a series of staggered deadlines the MVA is setting for drivers with updated licenses but outdated or insufficient paperwork on file with the MVA. All license-holders must have their paperwork on file by Oct. 1, 2020, the deadline set by the federal government, in order to use their licenses at airports or federal buildings.
How do I check if my license is REAL ID compliant — and if the June deadline applies to me?
The MVA has an online tool at mva.maryland.gov you can use. (The tool has been unresponsive Thursday amid a surge in traffic following the announcement.)
If the June deadline applies to you, the lookup tool will say: “You are required to present documents in order to meet federal REAL ID Act requirements. Please bring your documents to a MDOT MVA branch office by MM/DD/YYYY. Failure to respond may result in action against your Maryland Driver's License or ID card.”
If your deadline is not until November or later, the tool will display a generic message saying: “You are required to present documents in order to meet federal REAL ID Act requirements. Please CLICK HERE to begin gathering your required documents and to schedule an appointment to present them at a MDOT MVA branch office.”
MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said the agency has been stepping up its efforts on social media, at public events like the Towsontown Spring Festival last week, with emails and mail notifications, and in phone calls reminding customers with upcoming appointments what they need to bring.
“Get in contact with us,” Nizer said. “If you have a question we want to walk you through the process and make it as understandable as possible.”
The MVA’s customer service center can be reached at 410-768-7000.
What’s the required documentation?
1. One proof of age and identity, such as an original or certified copy of your U.S. birth certificate or a valid, unexpired U.S. passport. (If your current legal name is different from what is listed on these documents, you will also 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.)
What is REAL ID and why is this happening?
The federal REAL ID law, passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, created nationwide security standards for state licenses and identification cards for use at airports and federal buildings. The law requires states to have the above documents on file for identity verification purposes.
Maryland began collecting the required documents from new drivers (including learner’s permits) and out-of-state transplants as part of the licensing process in July 2009, and it has required those documents from drivers renewing licenses since January 2018, to comply with federal law.
But more than half of the state’s 5 million licensed drivers have not filed the required documents with the MVA.
I have the new Maryland flag-themed license — does that mean I’m compliant?
Not necessarily. The state began issuing the Maryland flag-themed licenses, which have the REAL ID star on them, in 2016 “under a process that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deemed compliant.” Not all customers were required to submit the documentation, Nizer said.
But in October 2017, DHS changed the guidelines to require that all drivers with a REAL ID license file their documentation with state motor vehicle agencies, the MVA said.
About 1 million drivers now have the new Maryland flag-themed licenses but have outdated or insufficient paperwork on file with the MVA. June is the first of a series of staggered deadlines for customers in that group.
“We’re starting with people who have most recently been to visit us but did not provide documents during that visit and have the new license with the REAL ID star on it,” Nizer said.
While drivers facing a June deadline have received multiple notifications about it since December, according to the MVA, the public announcement of the recall Thursday came with less than a month’s notice. The agency said in a December press conference that it would be staggering the REAL ID compliance deadlines, Nizer said.
“We didn’t put the June date out because we communicated that directly to the specific impacted customers,” Nizer said. “We did publicly say we were going to be doing this.”
I don’t have the new Maryland flag-themed license. Can I just wait until mine expires?
The June deadline does not apply to drivers still using one of the old, non-REAL ID compliant, white-and-blue ones, which can be used legally to drive until they expire. But those Marylanders won’t be able to use the old licenses to pass through airport security checkpoints or enter federal buildings after Oct. 1, 2020.
Will I be ticketed if I’m pulled over and my license is recalled?
The officer or trooper pulling you over will be required to take your license because it is invalid, but you should not receive a ticket or fine for the violation, because the recall is statutory and does not invalidate your driving privilege, Nizer said.
You will, however, need to get a new one.
“Your driving privilege means you’re eligible to drive,” Nizer said. “The action we’re taking is to recall licenses under statute. [Drivers with recalled licenses] haven’t had a driving infraction. … It’s an administrative issue.”
How can I avoid a headache at the MVA?
Nizer said she understands the requirements are confusing and potentially frustrating to drivers.
The MVA has extended hours at its branch offices and added more than 1,900 weekly appointment slots and extended hours at offices in Baltimore, Essex, Easton, Frederick, Gaithersburg and Westminster.
Marylanders headed to the MVA are urged to make an appointment, which carries a guarantee of service within 15 minutes. And don’t forget your documents.