Washington deemed fully compliant with REAL ID

OLYMPIA, Wash.  — Washington state is now in full compliance with federal requirements for state driver's licenses and ID cards.

This summer, the state Department of Licensing starting marking some state driver's licenses and identification cards with the words "federal limits apply" as the state moved to comply with a 2005 federal law known as REAL ID.

Last Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security that says the compliance determination was made after a review found that the state "has begun implementing a program that meets the standards of the Act and regulation."

The federal law requires state driver's licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and to be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States. It was passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to strengthen rules for identification needed at airports and federal facilities.

Washington already offers, but does not mandate, "enhanced" driver's licenses and IDs that require proof of U.S. citizenship and are already valid under the federal law. Nothing has changed with those licenses, but since July, all new and renewed standard licenses — which aren't in line with the federal requirements — are being marked to indicate they are not REAL ID compliant and thus not acceptable for certain purposes by federal authorities once enforcement begins October 2020.

Washington was among many states that struggled for years to comply with REAL ID. As concerns about residents not being able to use their licenses to board domestic flights increased, state lawmakers passed a measure last year creating the two-tiered licensing system.

The state law prohibits the marked licenses from being used to determine or infer citizenship or immigration status or to spark an investigation or arrest that otherwise would not have occurred. The cost of a standard six-year license/ID is $54; the enhanced licenses/ID is $78 for that same timeframe.

Residents have a choice of which license they want. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, those with the non-compliant licenses will need additional documentation — such as a passport, permanent resident card or military ID — to board domestic commercial flights and for other federal purposes, such as getting on military bases.