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Want a Real ID? Here’s your checklist

Real ID is now the real deal.

Last week, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division started issuing Real ID-compliant licenses and ID cards. And if the Journal’s Thursday front page was any indication, change is hard.

Even when it has been nine months in the making.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed HB 99 in March, finally putting the state into compliance with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which was passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. It sets stringent rules for issuing licenses and identification cards that can be used for federal purposes, such as boarding a commercial flight or entering a secure government facility.

And by stringent, they mean you will need to take four, yes 4, documents with you to get your new license or ID – one proof of identification number, one proof of identity, and two proofs of residency. (To be clear, new license applicants have had to take these very same documents for years – what’s different is all the folks renewing a license have to round them up as well.)

SO WHAT DO I TAKE? The complete list of accepted Real-ID documents is posted here on our website,, as are those to get a non-Real-ID driver authorization or ID card. I checked with Tiffany Smyth at the state Taxation and Revenue Department, which oversees MVD, and she explains that for the vast majority of applicants who want a Real ID-compliant license it breaks down like this:

• Proof of ID number – Take your Social Security card. The Social Security administration does not allow it to be laminated because that obscures some of the safety features, so MVD will not accept it if it has been laminated. In lieu of your card, you can take a W-2 or 1099 tax form, which have your full Social Security number on them.

• Proof of identity – Take your passport or birth certificate. The passport can not be expired; the birth certificate has to be an original or certified copy.

• Proof of residency – Take two of these: your rental lease, mortgage statement, property tax bill, or any of these that have your physical address and are dated within the past 60 days: a utility bill (no cellphone bills allowed), an insurance bill or card or binder, a bank statement or credit card bill, a pay stub, a school transcript or report card, or a state medical or public assistance card. Drivers who are homeless or in temporary lodging can provide a notarized letter from a service provider and an affidavit of residency.

WHAT IF I HAVE A P.O. BOX? Most of the above mentioned forms of residency have a physical address in addition to the mailing address – utility statements include your service address, and rental, mortgage and property-tax documents include the property address. A document with just a P.O. Box will not be accepted.

WHAT IF ALL STATEMENTS ARE IN SOMEONE ELSE’S NAME? Then you need to either get something in your name or produce a document that links you to that person, such as a marriage certificate. In December 2012, I wrote a column about a young man who was living with his family, rode his bike everywhere and did not have two proofs of residency. The family planned to have him open a bank account and put the satellite TV bill in his name.

WHAT IF ALL STATEMENTS ARE ONLINE? If you use electronic billing and get all your statements online, MVD will accept a printout.

WHAT IF MY NAME HAS CHANGED? If your bills or statements are in a different name than your birth certificate or Social Security card, for example, then you need to show the linking document, such as your marriage certificate, divorce decree or court name-change document. You do not need to get all those documents changed, you just need to show why your name changed.

WHICH MVD OFFICE DO I GO TO? You can get a Real ID-compliant license or ID card at any state, municipal or contract office. The only time you have to go to a specific state office is if you cannot prove legal immigration status AND your N.M. license has expired or it’s your first time getting a license – then you have to be fingerprinted per the state law. Only these state offices have the digital equipment to take the prints and transmit them to State Police: Albuquerque-Special Services; Alamogordo; Carlsbad; Clovis; Española; Farmington; Las Cruces-Del Rey; Raton; Roswell; Ruidoso; Silver City; Truth or Consequences; Tucumcari.

WHAT IF I HAVE A REAL ID LICENSE FROM ANOTHER STATE? Then that will take care of your proof of identity, no passport of birth certificate required.

ANNUAL RENEWAL AGE NOW 79: One added provision in the Real ID legislation raises the age at which drivers have to annually renew their licenses. The age had been 75; it is now 79. So a senior going to renew a license can get a multiyear license that lasts up to his/her 79th birthday – the hook is they have to pay for them. Only the mandatory annual renewals are free.

DO I NEED TO GO TO MVD NOW? Only if your license is expiring. Current driver’s licenses are Real ID-compliant under an agreement with Homeland Security, so drivers don’t need to visit MVD until it’s time to renew. You can renew your license up to 89 days before it expires. The one exception is if your license goes beyond the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline to comply; those folks need to go in before that date and will have their new license pro-rated.

HOW OFTEN DO I HAVE TO DO THIS? Once you have produced the documents to get a Real-ID-compliant license or ID card, you do not have to repeat the process – unless you let your license/ID expire.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to assistant editorial page editor D’Val Westphal at 823-3858 or Go to to submit a letter to the editor.