By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
In less than two months, all Hawaii residents who are applying for or renewing a driver's license must bring documents that establish their legal presence in the state.
After March 5, people will need to bring to the county Department of Motor Vehicles documents establishing their legal name, date of birth, Social Security number and legal presence in the United States to renew or receive a new driver's license.
For most people, that means they will have to bring a birth certificate and a Social Security card, which together will satisfy the requirements. In lieu of a birth certificate, people can bring other appropriate documents issued by the federal government, including a U.S. passport, a green card or a certificate of naturalization or citizenship.
In response to the 2001 terror attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005, which mandated that state-issued identity cards comply with federal security requirements before they can be used for boarding commercial aircraft or entering federal buildings. The effective date of the federal law has been extended into the future as states struggled with its implementation. It has been a controversial law, and in 2007 U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, tried unsuccessfully to repeal it.
To bring Hawaii into compliance with the 2005 law, in 2010 the state Legislature passed a law requiring the extra documents. The state Department of Transportation explained the implications of the law in a press conference Sunday in Honolulu.
The law affects anyone applying for a Hawaii driver's license, including U.S. citizens and foreign-born applicants, those applying for a learner's permit and permit holders passing their road test for a driver's license. Those who are moving to Hawaii from abroad, and who are renewing a license or permit are also affected.
“All the states are supposed to be on the road to compliance by January of 2013,” Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl told the Tribune-Herald. “It makes it so the requirements are the same for all the states, and it comes out of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”
Beginning March 5, when people apply for a license, their documents will be scanned and forwarded to a “super-secure processing center, which is going to verify the documents, and keep them on record” Meisenzahl said. “And then you have to wait two weeks for your license to get mailed to you.” A temporary license will be issued for those who apply shortly before their regular licenses expire.
Once these documents are in the system, people do not need to bring them for their first renewal after eight years, but they will have to do so for their second one, eight years after that.
“A lot of the states are still in the process of getting this all together,” Meisenzahl said. “At some point in the future, if your license isn't Real ID-compliant, then you can't travel across the country. The (Transportation Security Administration) won't accept your license.”
Meisenzahl is trying to get the word out through the media that this change is coming:
“The most important thing I'd like to say is, 'If you read this story, please tell your friends, tell your family, people who might not be reading the paper.' We really want to get the word out, because we don't want people to be caught surprised,” he said.
“So the line's going to be a little longer at the DMV, and it's not going to be as easy a process as it was before. So as long as everybody's aware of it it shouldn't be too catastrophic.”
Hawaii residents who have changed their last names as a result of their marriage will have to provide a valid or certified copy of their marriage licenses.
Current driver's licenses will remain valid until their expiration date, at which time (assuming it's after March 5) the new rules will apply.
“All the counties are about ready to go,” Meisenzahl said.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.