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Real ID: things you need to know

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday signed a bill that should finally bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal security standards known as Real ID. Here’s what you need to know:

Q: Do I need to replace my Minnesota driver’s license now?

A: No. State lawmakers ushering the Real ID legislation believe the federal government will allow Minnesota’s current, standard licenses to continue to comply until they expire. They should work for air travel, and to enter federal buildings and military facilities, likely through 2020.

Q: When will I be able to get a Real ID in Minnesota?

A: The law passed this week requires the Department of Public Safety to have Real ID licenses available by Oct. 1, 2018.

Q: Can I get a Real ID license before I need to renew my current license?

A: Yes, once they are available, for a small fee of $2 to $6, depending on how long it is until your next renewal.

Q: What if my license expires before Real ID is available?

A: A standard license remains an option and should fall under a federal extension. But the state also offers an “enhanced” license, currently available for an additional $15, that can be used for travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean countries.

Q: Will Real ID licenses be required?

A: No, the Legislature also created the option of a noncompliant license with lower standards than what’s needed to obtain the Real ID license. Minnesotans who opt for the noncompliant licenses would need a passport or some other kind of added identification in order to board airplanes or get into some federal facilities.

Q: Will Real ID licenses be more expensive than standard or noncompliant licenses?

A: No, the renewal fees will be the same.

Q: How did Minnesota end up in this predicament?

A: Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to set minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards — one of the recommendations of the 9 / 11 Commission. In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature voted to defy the standards. Within several years, the federal government began to crack down on noncompliant states, but a tangential dispute in Minnesota about driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants slowed down efforts by the Legislature to resolve the issue. Lawmakers decided this week to tackle that issue separately. Minnesota is among the last small handful of states to finally head toward compliance.