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Over the next year, Michigan residents can expect to hear a lot about updating their state-issued identification to comply with a stricter federal called REAL ID.

When the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 goes into full effect Oct. 1, 2020, a standard state driver’s license or state ID card will no longer be enough to board a domestic flight or enter military bases, nuclear power plants as well as certain federal facilities.

To prepare for the deadline, Michigan Secretary of State and transportation officials are working to spread the word to travelers about the new requirements. They include getting REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses, which are marked by a star on the top of the cards.

“We want to avoid a scenario where people are showing up for that long-awaited family vacation and are unable to get on board for their flight,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told The Detroit News on Tuesday. "... It’s not too soon to be prepared to be able to fly a year from now."

Upgrading a standard license or state ID to a REAL ID is free if done during the renewal period, according to the Secretary of State office. Outside that time frame, residents face a card correction fee of $9 for a driver’s license or $10 for a state ID.

Benson held a news conference at Detroit Metro Airport with Steve Lorincz, a Transportation Security Administration federal security director, and Darryl Brown, vice president of public safety for the Wayne County Airport Authority, to cover details.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and follows the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” according to the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces it.

Though the program is voluntary, residents without a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license or other acceptable documents, such as a valid passport, will be unable to fly within the United States or enter certain federal facilities, officials said.

“The security requirements of Real ID … will dramatically improve and enhance the overall commercial aviation sector,” Lorincz said during the press conference.

Last week, Homeland Security officials reported only 27% of Americans had been issued a REAL ID.

An estimated 41% of Michigan driver’s licenses and state ID cards are currently REAL ID-compliant, Benson’s office reported Tuesday. The figure includes enhanced driver’s licenses, which can be used to cross the border into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by land or sea.

Residents can turn their standard license or state ID card into a REAL ID by scheduling an appointment online at one of the 131 Secretary of State branch offices.

To apply, they need to bring the required identity documents:

•A driver’s license or state ID card.

•A certified birth certificate with a raised seal or stamp issued by a governmental agency; a valid, unexpired U.S. passport; or an approved citizenship or legal presence document.

•If their name differs from what is on their birth certificate, certified documents, such as marriage licenses or court orders, are needed for every name change.

Benson encouraged travelers to seek the upgrade early since Secretary of State sites likely will see many more customers as residents realize they need to update their IDs.

“It’s going to be a challenging year as we work to process all of these identification upgrades so that citizens can travel,” she said.

Her office is partnering with airports and groups across the state to offer tips ahead of the deadline. Meanwhile, TSA has started displaying signs at airports and agents “are already advising passengers with non-compliant IDs that now is the time to prepare for this change,” Lorincz said. 

At Detroit Metro Airport, the state’s busiest, associates and volunteers are being educated on the requirements, said Darryl Brown, vice president of public safety for the Wayne County Airport Authority. “We want them to be prepared to answer questions to assist our traveling passengers.”

Some travelers are already on board.

Linda Legendre of Warren, who was en route to Florida on Tuesday, said she applied for a compliant license months ago and welcomes the move for enhanced security.

“It’s something needed to protect everybody,” she said. “It’s a very good idea.”

For more information: Michigan.gov/REALID.

mhicks@detroitnews.com

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