Here’s when you need a REAL ID, where & how to get one in WA


A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., informs visitors of the federal government's Real ID act, which requires state driver's licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they're legally in the United States .

A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., informs visitors of the federal government’s Real ID act, which requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they’re legally in the United States .

The Associated Press file

By the time Washington’s REAL ID law becomes enforceable May 3, 2023, state driver’s licenses without a black star will no longer allow you to fly domestically at US commercial airports or to visit military bases and federal facilities that require identification.

After the law goes into effect next year, air travelers 18 years or older will need a REAL ID-compliant state driver’s license, permit or identification card to fly domestically, visit military bases or enter federal buildings. Other approved forms of identification – including a US passport, passport card and other documents – will still be accepted.

REAL ID is being implemented in all 50 states.

Washington’s REAL ID is the Evergreen State’s bid to comply with the federal REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 and enacted on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the legislation created minimum security standards for issuing and producing licenses, and bars certain federal agencies from accepting IDs that don’t meet those standards. The Transportation Security Administration provides a checklist of REAL ID-compliant factors to check for.

Where can I get my REAL ID in WA and what does it cost?

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, if you want a REAL ID, you’ll have to visit one of the cabinet’s offices. Their FAQ page on the topic provides additional information.

To streamline the transition, the state has an online toolkit designed to help residents in getting their REAL IDs. You can also reach out via email if you have questions through that page. You can also find online services.

The cost for obtaining a REAL ID driver’s license in Washington state varies, depending on whether you’re purchasing a new license or upgrading an existing one. Full pricing for types of REAL ID options is available online.

What documents do I need to get a REAL ID?

To get a REAL ID, you need one way to prove your identity, one way to prove your social security number and two ways to prove residence. The Washington Department of Transportation provides a detailed list.

Acceptable proof of identity documents include:

  • Original birth certificate

  • Passport documents

  • Resident/citizenship documents, ie a permanent resident card, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship

These must be the original documents, not photocopies.

You can prove your social security number with:

  • Your social security card

  • Other income documents, like your W-2 wage and tax statement or your most recent 1099 form. You can also use a pay stub or statement

Some acceptable proof-of-residence documents include:

In this case of married couples and any last name changes, you will also need to bring an additional document explaining name changes if your current name does not match the one on your proof document. A marriage certificate is a good way to show this.

Here’s a full list of acceptable documents:

You can also take a quiz to help determine what documents you need online.

This story was originally published Oct 4, 2022 9:36 AM.

Genevieve Belmaker is an award-winning journalist and author who joined McClatchy as Public Service Journalism Editor in 2022. She’s a graduate of the University of Southern California and studied journalism at New York University.

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Aaron Mudd is a service journalism reporter with the Lexington Herald-Leader based in Lexington, Kentucky. He previously worked for the Bowling Green Daily News covering K-12 and higher education. Aaron has roots in Kentucky’s Fayette, Marion and Warren counties.
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