Mississippi

If you fly, pay attention: You need a Real ID driver’s license in 2020. Here’s how to get one.

Look at your Mississippi driver’s license. Does it have a gold star in the upper-right corner?

If it doesn’t and you want to fly commercially anywhere in the U.S. after Oct. 1, 2020 —and you don’t have a passport or other acceptable form of identification — you’re going to have to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license.

You’ll also need one to access a military base or secure federal facility.

The federal law requiring REAL ID — a special driver’s license or identification card with a gold or black star — was passed in 2005 in the aftermath of 9/11 but is just now approaching full implementation.

Mississippi started issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses in 2018. About 1.2 million drivers in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s Driver Service Bureau, lack REAL ID because their licenses were obtained or renewed prior to that time.

Apply in person, paperwork required

So, yes, if you want a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license you are going to have to make a trip to your local driver’s license station (you can’t apply online), bring the required identification paperwork (see a list below) and pay for another license.

And keep this in mind. Some of the documents you might need, like a Social Security card or certified birth certificate, can take two to four weeks or more to get if you don’t have them on hand. And getting through lines at your local driver’s license station can take time, too, so this is not a last-minute errand.

Most unaware of new requirement

The entire process, in fact, is worrying some lawmakers and airport officials who say the public is going to be caught off guard.

According to a survey by the U.S. Travel Association, about 99 million Americans do not have a REAL ID or acceptable alternative identification like a passport. Nearly 60% of Americans are unaware of the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline.

Tom Heanue, executive director of Hattiesburg Laurel Regional Airport Authority, says a few TSA signs aren’t enough to publicize REAL ID.

“If you know nothing about it, one year will go by like that. Those signs aren’t that big. People don’t read those signs. I don’t think we’ve done enough for it. I don’t know what the plan is.”

Potential disruption for air travel

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, addressed the issue in a recent letter to Kevin McAleenan, Transportation Security Administration acting secretary.

“I am increasingly concerned about the potential disruption for air travel if there is widespread lack of compliance with the law among the flying public,” Wicker wrote.

Mississippi public safety officials, however, are urging people not to panic. There’s plenty of time, they say, and publicity campaigns are planned.

“We’re asking people to actually go ahead and start renewing gradually — come in over time — so we don’t have everyone at once,” said Becky Pierson, director of marketing and development for the Driver Service Bureau in Jackson.

In fact, the state Department of Public Safety is so confident it can deal with the influx, it’s not planning on hiring additional staff or making any budget increases to handle REAL ID.

Real ID in Mississippi: Your questions answered

What if my driver’s license doesn’t expire before Oct. 1, 2020?

If you plan to fly commercially at or after that time and you don’t have a U.S. passport or other acceptable form of identification, you will have to go to your local driver’s license office and get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card. It is not the same as a simple renewal; paperwork is required.

Do I have to pay to get a Real ID?

Yes. You will purchase a duplicate or renewal license or identification card. A four-year renewal license is $24. A four-year identification card renewal is $17. Some states are charging an additional fee on top of regular costs for REAL ID-compliant licenses and identification cards, but that’s not happening in Mississippi.

“You don’t pay extra for the star,” Pierson said.

Do I need a Real ID if I don’t intend to fly?

That depends. You can use a regular driver’s license to drive. But you do need one to access military bases or secure federal facilities.

You do not need a REAL ID to vote, access hospitals, visit the post office, go to federal courts, conduct bank transactions or apply for or receive federal benefits such as veterans benefits or Social Security.

Where do I get a Real ID?

You obtain a REAL ID at your local Mississippi driver’s license station — where you normally get your driver’s license. You may have to wait in line, get your picture taken or go through other hassles that go along with obtaining a regular driver’s license.

In some cities, you can go online at www.driverservicebureau.dps.ms.gov to make an appointment and avoid the wait, but you must appear in person. You can’t apply online for a REAL ID.

What do I need to bring with me to get a REAL ID?

To get a real ID, you need to prove your identity, your Social Security number and your address. Here is a sampling of some of the documents accepted.

  • Identity: U.S. passport or certified birth certificate
  • Social Security number/one proof required:Social Security card, W-2 form, pay stub showing full SSN, etc.
  • Residency/two proofs required showing residential address: Utility bills, lease, insurance, bank documents, etc.

Be aware. Some of these documents may take awhile to obtain. A certified birth certificate, by mail, can take four weeks and costs vary by state. A replacement Social Security card takes two weeks.

Does my child need a REAL ID?

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling in the U.S. with an adult companion but the adult must have a Real ID. Contact your airline for specific identification requirements for your child.

What if I want to fly domestically but don’t want to get a Real ID?

TSA will also accept a U.S. passport or U.S. passport card as well as several other less common kinds of identification. Visit TSA’s website for more information.

Why am I just hearing about Real ID now, when Congress approved this law in 2005?

Pierson said it’s taken 14 years for the process to play out. States had to first become compliant with federal law — which Mississippi did in 2013 — the first state to do so. Some states, like New Jersey and Oregon, still are not compliant.

She said the state Department of Public Safety will put information on its website, issue press releases, put posters in airports and driver service bureaus, mount a social media campaign and send postcards to people reminding them of REAL ID.

For more on this story, go to HattiesburgAmerican.com

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