BY RALPH ALVARADO
I want to provide you a reminder and an update on Kentucky’s new federally compliant REAL IDs, also known as a Voluntary Travel ID. Suppose you do not have an alternative form of ID such as a passport by May 3, 2023. In that case, you will need the new REAL ID to board a domestic airline and enter military bases or a federal building like the White House (this does not include offices such as Social Security Administration, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, etc.). The deadline to obtain a REAL ID has been changed several times. There was a deadline in place for October 1 of this year, but that has been pushed back 19 additional months to May 2023 due to COVID-19.
What I do not want to get lost in the conversation is that all residents of Kentucky do not have to go through the hassle of getting the new REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses. If you do not want a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, your current Kentucky driver’s license is still valid and will continue to be until its renewal date. When that time comes, turn in your old license for a standard version of the new driver’s license. It is no big deal because nothing changes with the renewal process if you chose to stay with the standard driver’s license. You can still use the standard license to apply for federal benefits, access health and medical services, participate in law enforcement proceedings and investigations, operate a vehicle, and vote or register to vote. These facts also apply to commercial and motorcycle licenses, permits, and state-issued personal identification cards.
Kentucky delayed complying with REAL ID as long as it was possible. Many had wishful thoughts the federal government would abandon the mandate, which was enacted following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Kentucky’s REAL ID law passed in 2017, and since that time, the United States Department for Homeland Security (DHS) has granted Kentucky multiple extensions to become compliant.
Early in 2020—before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—the Governor and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) held a press conference announcing the opening of regional offices to assist Kentuckians with obtaining a REAL ID. The technology did not and does not exist at our local circuit clerk’s offices. In hopes of addressing this, KYTC had established several regional offices throughout the state that serve as hubs to provide new IDs. I want to encourage you to take a moment to visit drive.ky.gov to find information on this matter. There is understandably a lot of confusion surrounding this topic, and the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic threw a wrench in our ability to travel and visit offices in person over the past 14 months. I hope that by providing this information to you directly, some might avoid frustrations in acquiring their IDs.
If you get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, be mentally prepared. These new licenses are a drastic change from the driver’s license we are used to. To apply for the REAL ID, you will have to provide the following:
• Proof of identity—this can include your birth certificate. If you need to obtain a certified copy, contact the Vital Statistics Office at 502-564-4212 or find their web page on the Cabinet for Health and Family Services website at chfs.ky.gov. If your name has changed from the name listed on your documents, you will also need to provide proof documents that show a direct link between your name changes, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, legal name court order, or valid U.S. military ID. Name matchups on your documents will be a critical requirement.
• Proof of your Social Security Number (SSN)—you can go to ssa.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 to request a replacement Social Security card. Originally, laminated Social Security cards were not going to be accepted, but DHS has loosened some document requirements. Recent IRS forms like a 1099 or W-2 or a paycheck stub from your employer with your SSN on it are also valid documents.
• Proof of residency—one for the standard ID option; two for the REAL ID
You can schedule an appointment at a regional office near you by going to drive.ky.gov and selecting the office you wish to visit. You will be shown available dates and times. Bring the required forms of identification previously listed to your appointment. Regional offices currently open include the following cities: Bowling Green, Burlington, Catlettsburg, Columbia, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Jackson, Lexington, Louisville-Bowman, Louisville, Buechel Station, Louisville-Hurstbourne, Madisonville, Morehead, Owensboro, Paducah, Prestonsburg, Richmond, and Somerset. More offices may open in the future. Be aware; the state is in a transition phase to place nearly all driver’s licensing services in these regional offices. By June 3, 2022, those services will not be handled at circuit court clerk offices. Twenty counties have announced this transition thus far, and others will over the next year.
With people reluctant to get out and do much due to COVID-19, and with restrictions now starting to ease, there may be a bottleneck effect on making appointments for IDs. If you want to make an appointment in the near future, go online as soon as possible to schedule the earliest available date and time.
Although the REAL IDs cost $48, they are valid for eight years rather than four years for current licenses. A four-year standard option is available for half the cost. There are also discounts depending on the expiration of your current standard IDs. I encourage you to visit KYTC’s website to ensure you are familiar with this information. The Frequently Asked Questions page is informative and can answer most of your questions. You can call KYTC directly at 502-564-1257. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. I will be happy to help in any way I can.
If you have any thoughts or questions regarding this issue or any other, I certainly want to hear from you. You can contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Ralph.Alvarado@LRC.KY.GOV. Stay safe. God Bless.
Senator Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) represents the 28th State Senate District including Clark and Montgomery Counties and the eastern portion of Fayette County. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. He is also a member of the Senate Standing Committees on State and Local Government, Banking and Insurance, and Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources. Additionally, he serves as a member of the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Statutory Committee.