You may have heard about a change to driver’s licenses called “Real ID.” Do you know what this is? Do you know how it will impact you?

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005. This act changed the U.S. federal law concerning security and procedures for state driver’s licenses and identity documents. On Oct. 1, 2020, as a result of the Real ID Act, anyone wishing to enter a federal building or travel on a domestic flight will need a Real ID or a valid, unexpired passport.

Last year, Massachusetts began issuing Real ID licenses and identification cards. If your existing Massachusetts identification expires after Oct. 1, 2020, you can update to a Real ID before your existing card expires. However, you will be charged $25 to update your card.

If you plan to travel or visit a federal building before your existing card expires and if you don’t have a passport, you will need to update your card before Oct. 1, 2020.

Although you must visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain a Real ID, you can start the process online and save yourself time at the office. You can go through a “Get Ready” checklist online at www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-registry-of-motor-vehicles to begin this process.

If you have an AAA membership, you can obtain a Real ID at the AAA office in Peabody on Route 114.

In order to obtain a Real ID, you must be able to prove your lawful Massachusetts residence, your date of birth, your name and your Social Security number. If your name has changed from your birth name for any reason, you will need to provide legal documentation showing each change to your name.

There are several documents that you will need to present in order to prove your identification. You can download a full list of acceptable documents at www.mass.gov/guides/massachusetts-identification-id-requirements. You can also call SeniorCare’s Information & Referral Department and request an “RMV identification documents checklist.”

All documents that you present must be original documents. Photocopies will not be accepted.

If you laminated your social security card like I did 30 years ago, you will need to get a new card. You may be able to request a card online at www.ssa.gov/ssnumber. Or, you can visit the Social Security office in Salem at 35 Congress St. When I requested my new card online, it took about three weeks to receive it.

If you need to replace your birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc., you can find whom to contact and costs online at www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/index.htm.

As you can see, this is not a task that you should put off until the last minute. You will want to start putting together all of your documents well in advance of your planned visit to the RMV.

If you are planning to travel after Oct. 1, 2020, it would be a good idea to get everything in place as soon as possible. That way, if a document you thought was valid is rejected, you will still have time to take care of it before your travel dates.

If you have an unexpired, valid passport, you can use your passport in place of a Real ID. It is important to not allow the passport expire. Also, don’t forget to take your passport with you if you are visiting a federal property or traveling by air. Most of us keep our driver’s license or state-issued identification with us at all times. But many people leave their passports in a safe place at home.

The good news is that, once you have gone through the process of acquiring a Real ID, you do not need to repeat this process again. Your next license renewal will automatically update with your Real ID information.

Remember, sometimes we have to travel unexpectedly. Make sure you have all of your paperwork and identification in order before Oct. 1, 2020, just in case you have to take an emergency flight or just decide to take a last-minute getaway someplace fun. 

Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., a local agency on aging that serves Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

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