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A little prep keeps Real ID from becoming real headache

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER 90 MINUTES AT THE MVD: On Tuesday I spent an hour and a half at a state-run Motor Vehicle Division office to complete a seven-minute transaction.

There could have been more clerks at windows – though there were seven open at the Eagle Ranch office. They could have done a better job making it clear you take a number to wait in line, only to explain your transaction so you can wait in line again to actually conduct that transaction – though there were two digital signs that showed which numbers were being helped at which window.

But the biggest thing MVD could have done to make my visit shorter was to somehow ensure every driver in line in front of me had the documentation they needed with them.

Instead, we all learned together about the driver who didn’t have a copy of their birth certificate, had never had a passport, and hadn’t checked the list of alternate documents to get a state-issued Driver’s Authorization Card (which is all you need to drive legally) instead of a federally accepted Real ID license (good for getting on a commercial flight after October 2020).

And we all learned together about the driver with the ex-spouse who maybe had the marriage license but was as likely to burn it as hand it over to help their former significant other complete a transaction.

You get the idea – forewarned is forearmed, and almost three years into the Real ID process, a whole lot of drivers are bringing the wrong paperwork to a bureaucratic document fight.

MVD Director Alicia Ortiz reiterates the same thing the Scouts do: Be prepared.

“Your visit to an MVD office for a driver’s license or identification card starts with a series of decisions you can make in the comfort of your own home,” she says, advising that: “Your first question is: Do I need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license/ID card? Your second question may be: Am I eligible for a Real ID compliant driver’s license/ID card? A quick visit to the MVD website – – can help you answer those questions and identify which documents you’ll need to get a Real ID-compliant license or ID or a non-Real ID-compliant Driving Authorization Card (DAC) or ID. Taking a few minutes to follow the Real ID companion (RIC) can help you be prepared and save you lots of time at MVD.”

Here is the abridged version, and it is really worth going to the website, which walks you through each step and lists accepted alternative documents.

FOR A REAL ID LICENSE: 1. You have to prove your identity and age. The easiest way is with an original or certified copy (not a photocopy) of a U.S. birth certificate (from county or state government – not a hospital or church) or a valid U.S. passport (not an expired one). If you have changed your name from the one that’s on the document, you have to have the official government linking paperwork that shows how/why – marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption paperwork, court order.

2. You have to prove your identity number. The easiest way is with a Social Security card, W-2 or 1099 tax form or pay stub. It has to have your name and full Social Security number on it, and the name has to match the birth certificate/passport name or the one on the linking documents from No. 1 (although they no longer require the middle name/initial or suffix like “Jr.” to match).

3. You have to prove you are a New Mexico resident. Easiest way is a utility bill, bank or credit card statement, pay stub or school transcript, report card or enrollment document. Again, each one has to have your name that matches the name(s) on the documents in Nos. 1 and 2, along with a physical address. Cellphone bills and P.O. boxes do not count, and a checkbook is not a bank statement.

FOR A DRIVER AUTHORIZATION CARD: If you do not have a birth certificate or a document with your Social Security card – or you just don’t want to share that information with the MVD – you can still get a DAC.

1. You have to prove your identity and age. There are 34 acceptable documents, with the easiest being your current, unexpired driver’s license. A full list is at

2. You have to prove you are a New Mexico resident. (Same documents as No. 3 above.)

And do not, if at all possible, let your current license expire before you go in to get your first Real ID. An expired license means you have to be fingerprinted and it is a whole other deal – it’s doable, but it’s a whole other deal. Use the time before your license is set to expire to get your documents in order. Because as the ticker at the top of MVD’s Real ID web page shows, we are just about 14 months away from requiring every New Mexico driver to have gone through this process. (On June 10, MVD announced 1 million N.M. drivers had gotten a Real ID.)

The good news is you only have to do this once; after you get your first Real ID license, renewing is just like it was in the pre-Real ID days.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.