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Get your docs in a row for Real ID license

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On the face of it, getting a Real ID driver’s license seems easy to many.

One reader emails as much. “I have come to the conclusion that if folks can’t figure out the requirements, maybe they’re not literate enough to drive. I just renewed my driver’s license and brought my passport, a 1099 with my Social (Security number) on it and two utility bills (with my name and address). Duh. If you don’t have a passport, a birth certificate will do. It’s not that tough.”

Oh, but it can be. Especially if you have changed your name, like many married folks have.

Count Frances Avery among the New Mexico residents who have a different name from the one on their birth certificate. Avery turned 93 recently and wanted to get a Real ID license when she renewed, so she went through the list of required documents put out by the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division and published in the Journal.

“I had it all out,” she says. “I checked and made sure I had everything” because her renewal “was coming due quickly.”

Avery says that in addition to her current driver’s license, she took her Social Security card to prove her ID number, her birth certificate to prove her identity, and two current utility bills to prove residency. She says she also grabbed her military ID just to be safe. And she headed to an MVD Express contract office in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights to renew because, as she puts it, she’s 93, and to drive to a state office, park in a large lot far from the front door, walk all the way in, then wait hours to be called and renew is a big task.

She waited two hours anyway.

And she didn’t get a Real ID license.

That’s because Avery did not have her marriage license to show why the name on her birth certificate was different from the name on her Social Security card and utility bills. She’s right that the requirement to provide that linking document is not on the official list MVD put out last month when it started issuing Real IDs in compliance with the federal 2005 Real ID Act. (It is mentioned on the MVD’s home page, A red box includes the warning: “If your proof of identity document does not contain your current full legal name, you must present documentation of any name change(s). This may include a marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption records or court order.”)

Avery wasn’t alone in her predicament. She says she watched two other women leave the contract office to go home and find their marriage certificates.

And other readers have reported the same.

Donna Wright emailed that “my aunt was just sent home to get her marriage license because her name on her birth certificate didn’t match her other forms of ID. That isn’t on the list of things we need to get our new licenses.”

And Martha Swinney emailed she was told “since your birth certificate has a different name than all the rest of your documents, you will need to provide your marriage license to show the source of the name change.” Swinney says she retrieved her marriage license from her safe deposit box, but when she went back to the Los Lunas MVD, “I decided to do an experiment” and provided her passport instead of her birth certificate – because her passport has her married name, same as her Social Security Card and residency documents (in her case, property tax and bank statements).

Swinney says she “was given my temporary license without any problem.” She points out, “It seems to be an added burden for married women, don’t you think?”

In the end, Avery says, she was glad she had taken her military ID, because she just wasn’t up for a trip home and back. Under the federal requirements, a military ID can be used to prove identity for a non-Real ID driver authorization card, or DAC. While the DAC will not be accepted for federal purposes, such as boarding a commercial airline or entering certain federal installations, it is all you need to drive legally.

And because Avery is over age 79 and has to renew her driver’s license annually, she says that next year she’ll be sure to take her marriage license along with the other documents so she can finally get a Real ID.

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.