Real ID

A driver’s license is scanned as caucus attendees check-in at Rutherford Elementary School in Stillwater, Minn. After Oct. 1, Real ID licenses or cards will be needed at airport security checkpoints and for certain federal facilities. (MPR)

State employees and elected officials are encouraging Minnesotans to get a head start on applying for a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card ahead of the Oct. 1 federal deadline.

Local politicians have joined the Department of Public Safety in issuing the call, with Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) sending out a release earlier this week reminding residents that it is still taking several weeks for the state to turn applications around.

With just under 11% of cardholders statewide currently in possession of a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card according to the Department of Public Safety, the agency’s Director of Communications Bruce Gordon encouraged residents to beat the rush — adding that the Driver and Vehicle Services division is bringing on additional staff to process the increasing number of applications.

According to the department, the number of residents with an updated card has gone up 2% since the start of November.

The difference between a REAL ID-compliant card and Minnesota’s standard licenses — which will continue to be offered — is that as of October 2020, air travelers will need the former in order to board domestic flights or enter federal facilities. A passport will also be an acceptable alternative, but the standard driver’s license or state ID no longer will.

With both licenses and state identification cards, there are currently three tiers available — standard, REAL ID and enhanced, the latter of which is also REAL ID-compliant. In addition to performing the functions of a REAL ID, an enhanced version can be used to travel by land or sea to Mexico, Canada and some Caribbean countries.

While REAL IDs can be issued to both citizens and non-citizens, enhanced cards can only be issued to the former and require more documentation to obtain.

Because residents will need to check additional boxes to get either of the new compliant cards, and because current processing times are averaging around two months, Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) echoed Bennett in encouraging constituents to make the change sooner rather than later if they don’t have a passport and will need the updated ID to board domestic flights.

“It’s not too early, it’s right on time,” said Petersburg, whose district includes both the cities of Waseca and Owatonna. “It’s certainly more convenient than having to bring your passport with you everywhere you go. That’s another form of ID you have to worry about.”

He added that, if residents’ standard licenses aren’t set to expire until after Oct. 1, they can still make the switch and have additional years tacked onto the new compliant card. According to a Jan. 8 news release from the Department of Public Safety, “when renewing early, four years will be added to the license or ID card’s original expiration date, so while an early renewal will cost a little more, the license or ID card will be valid for a longer period of time.”

According to the statement, there is an additional fee for renewing midterm which ranges from $2 to $6 based on how far out the original expiration date is. Those wishing to get the enhanced ID will also see an additional $15 charge.

Both cards are available at full-service driver’s license offices across the state, but both will require applicants to show additional forms of identification not asked for in the standard procedure. For the REAL ID, these include something proving identity, date of birth and legal presence in the U.S., something proving social security number, and two different documents proving current residency in Minnesota.

The enhanced card requires, in addition, proof of citizenship and photographic identity, and an interview questionnaire. A complete list of acceptable documents can be found on the Department of Public Safety website.

With these additional processing requirements, Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault) said one of his main messages for residents at this stage in the process is not to get frustrated with office staff when applying for the new cards.

“The one thing I would say is to make sure that citizens have patience, because it does have more required documents and it’s not the fault of the deputy registrars who are at the office,” noted Jasinski, whose district includes the city of Waseca and most of Steele County. “What’s required has been deemed by federal and state guidelines.”

In order to streamline the process and ensure applicants have everything they need before going to a registrar, Gordon encouraged residents to look online for a checklist of necessary materials and a pre-application that can be completed prior to a physical office visit.

In Steele County, the Owatonna Deputy Registrar and Driver’s License Agent, located at 1825 Elm Ave. S., is able to process applications for REAL ID-compliant cards. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of every month. Nearby, deputy registrars in both Waseca and Faribault are also able to issue the updated licenses and IDs.

While residents without a passport or other acceptable form of identification who wish to fly within the U.S. will need an updated card as of October, the change isn’t mandatory. For a complete list of all forms of identification accepted by U.S. airport checkpoints, visit

For more information on the REAL and enhanced cards, and to start the online pre-application process, visit

Reporter Bridget Kranz can be reached at 507-444-2376. Follow her on Twitter @OPPBridget. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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