Washington residents who have standard driver’s licenses will have two years to use their IDs at airport security before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security starts enforcing the REAL ID requirements, announced Friday.
Washington is one of the few states that doesn’t require proof of citizenship or U.S. residency to receive a standard driver’s license, though the state also offers an enhanced license that requires that documentation.
That means Washington’s standard licenses and identification cards do not comply with federal rules requiring proof of U.S. residency or citizenship for identification through airport security and federal buildings.
The Jan. 22, 2018 deadline means that Washington residents will need a state enhanced identification, a passport or other federally issued identification to pass through a Transportation Security Adminsitration airport checkpoint, or the state will have to change its licensing and identification laws to comply with federal standards, according to the letter issued by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson.
“Over the next two years, those states that are not REAL ID compliant are strongly encouraged to meet the requirements of the law for the benefit of their residents,” he wrote in the letter posted on Homeland Security’s website.
In a blog post Friday, the Washington Department of Licensing called the announced deadline “good news for travelers in our state who were concerned REAL ID enforcement would impact upcoming travel plans.”
The 2-year deadline gives residents the chance to get a passport or an enhanced driver’s license or identification card, which are acceptable under the new federal rules, the DOL posted on the blog.
Washington’s enhanced driver’s license or identification card requires a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship, as well as a proof of identity and residence, according to the DOL.
In 2007, the Washington state legislature passed a bill opposing the federal REAL ID mandates.
After the Homeland Security declined to give Washington state an extension to comply earlier this year, licensing offices had been experiencing longer than normal wait times as people started getting the new enhanced identification cards, which require more processing time, the department said.
Most states do not issue drivers licenses without proof of residency or citizenship. Washington and New Mexico are the only states that issue standard driver’s licenses and identification cards regardless of U.S. residency or citizenship status. Other states, including California, issue drivers licenses to people without documentation, but the licenses and identification cards indicate that the identification card is not valid for federal purposes.
Last year, the Washington Department of Licensing developed a proposal that would have continued to allow undocumented immigrant drivers to get standard licenses and expanded the state’s existing Enhanced ID program. But the proposal died in the 2015 legislative session.