Transportation and Safety Committee are briefed on implementation of the federal REAL ID Act

Tennessee will begin issuing licenses compliant with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 beginning July 1 according to testimony provided to the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee this week. Lori Bullard, Assistant Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, briefed members of the Senate Transportation Committee about the act which established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.  The purpose of the measure was to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.  

It has taken the federal government almost 15 years to fully implement the act, mostly due to confusion and controversy about the federal legislation.  The law is voluntary in Tennessee, although it will be required beginning October 1, 2020, to enter federal facilities or to board a commercial aircraft without a valid U.S. Passport.

Bullard said REAL ID licenses have increased security features, making them more difficult to counterfeit.  A REAL ID license will be indicated by a star surrounded by a gold circle, whereas, Tennesseans who choose not to upgrade to REAL ID will be issued a license printed with “not for federal identification” at the top.

The following documents, which are currently required to obtain a standard Tennessee license, must be presented when applying for a REAL ID:

  • Proof to establish citizenship or legal presence (birth certificate or passport)
  • Proof of your full Social Security Number (Card, W-2 form, tax return)
  • Two proofs of Tennessee residency (utility bill, rental agreement, bank statement, vehicle registration, etc.)

The REAL ID can be obtained beginning July 1, 2019, as drivers renew their licenses or for a duplicate fee of $8 if the license holder wants to upgrade before their expiration date.  All documents must be provided by the license applicant in person at any Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) service center locations. 

Committee members expressed concerns that the state’s driver’s license centers would not be able to meet increased demand due to the REAL ID implementation.  The department plans to shift personnel to centers with high demand to reduce wait times.  Lawmakers will continue to monitor the act’s implementation as the July start date begins.  

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