ANNAPOLIS – It has been six months since Congress passed the Real ID Act, which seeks to strengthen anti-terrorist efforts by imposing broad new requirements for people getting drivers licenses across the country. But it will be months before Marylanders know to what extent things here will change, said the administrator of the Motor Vehicle Administration.
One thing is certain, though: it’s not going to get any easier.
“There are several issues we feel we need clarification on before we can comply,” MVA Administrator David Hugel told the House Motor Vehicles and Transportation Subcommittee on Tuesday. “We have begun consideration of what we must do, but we can not implement anything without a clearer picture of what is required.”
Included in the Real ID Act are new federal standards for driver’s licenses and ID cards. The requirements dictate everything from the information that should be included on the license to the kinds of documents needed to obtain one.
And don’t think if you already have a license, you’re off the hook. Starting in May 2008, the new act will require everyone to have a card in compliance with the new law, so whether getting a new license or renewing one, the new requirements will apply.
Each state has until May 11, 2008 to be fully compliant with the act, and if any state fails, its residents will not be able to use their driver’s licenses or ID cards for any federal purpose, including boarding an airplane.
In order to obtain an ID under the new act, a person must present a photo ID, a document showing the date of birth, documentation of the address of principal residence and a social security number.
Currently, in Maryland a social security number is not required to obtain an ID card or license. Under the new law, if a person can not present one, they will need to show proof from the Social Security Administration that they are ineligible.
The new act also provides stricter standards, saying a state “shall not accept any foreign document other than an official passport.”
This will make it more difficult for immigrants trying to obtain a license or ID card, said Del. Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., D, Calvert and Prince George’s.
“There are a lot of problems with people trying to prove who they are,” he said. “The government is here to help people, and unfortunately, I feel that the MVA tries to discourage people who are from out of the country.”
Another difference will be in the area of verification of documents. The new standards would require that certain documents given in support of identity be verified using a database, and right now the MVA does not have that capacity, Hugel said.
In order to comply, the MVA “would need to work on a national basis and that won’t happen anytime in the near future,” he said.
These extra steps will mean extra time and effort for anyone trying to obtain or renew a card.
“There will be many individuals who will need to go through the identification process,” Hugel said. “Right now if you come in it is a quick process, with the Real ID Act it will be two or three times as long because of the requirement to have all documents verified.”
More employees will be needed in order to handle the additional responsibilities at the MVA, he said, and compliance with the new law will also require money from the state, but there is no estimate yet as to how much.
There are many things that will change, Hugel said, but Maryland will not know to what extent the system will need to adapt until the regulations are written, which should be within the next several months, he said.
Hopefully, the regulations will be broad and Maryland will not need to make as many changes as other states, he said.
“Maryland has a new state-of-the-art license,” he said. “We’re confident it will meet the regulations, but we don’t know specifically what the new standards will be. We may still have to do a bit of tweaking.”
The MVA is hoping to have some indication of the direction the regulations are going in January, he said.
Del. Herb McMillan, R, Anne Arundel, urged the MVA to begin looking into some of the things that will definitely need to change, such as the requirement of a social security number to obtain a license.
“There may be some gray areas,” he said, “but there are a lot of areas that are very clear. If we’re going to get this done by 2008, we better get on it.” Chairman of the Subcommittee, Del. James E. Malone, Jr., D, Howard and Baltimore County, said the legislature plans to hold a hearing to discuss the issue again once more information becomes available.