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How to Get a Real ID in Virginia

You can obtain a Virginia REAL ID credential, such as a drivers license or ID card, through the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The difference between this credential and a regular driver’s license is that the DMV REAL ID-compliant license is considered a federally-accepted form of identification. This is due to the REAL ID Act, which was established in 2005 and will begin being enforced in 2020. In general, this act requires residents to present proof of identification that is federally-compliant in order to board domestic flights or enter certain federal buildings.

A VA REAL ID drivers license or identification card can be obtained via any DMV office in the state. In order to get this type of credential, you must present certain documentation that provides proof of identity and state residency. To learn more about which REAL ID documents are needed and what the process is for getting a federally-compliant card, read the sections below.

Do you need to get a REAL ID in Virginia?

Getting a federal ID card in Virginia is not a legal requirement. Therefore, you have the option to get this type of enhanced credential or keep your regular license or ID instead. Because these federally-compliant cards are only needed in certain situations, you may not ever need to obtain one. On the other hand, you are encouraged to do so if you believe that you will need it. As an example, you must have a REAL ID credential for the following situations:

  • Boarding a domestic flight with a commercial airline
  • Entering nuclear power plants
  • Accessing federal facilities

It is important to note that this REAL ID Act requirement will begin on October 1, 2020 across the United States. Thus, if you do not have a REAL ID card by that deadline, you must provide another form of identification accepted on a federal level, such as a passport, permanent resident card or others.

In order to get a VA REAL ID drivers license or identification card, you must provide slightly more documentation than you would normally need to for standard credentials. This additional paperwork is required to ensure that everyone meets the minimum security standards established by the REAL ID Act. Consequently, this initiative creates a standard that must be upheld by all federal facilities, nuclear power plants and commercial airlines.

As previously mentioned, you are not required to get a REAL ID compliant license or ID card, because it is only needed if you intend to visit any of the locations listed above. As such, your regular license or ID card is still able to be utilized in every other situation, including being pulled over by law enforcement or needing to provide proof of identity at the DMV.

REAL ID Requirements in Virginia

There are additional REAL ID requirements in Virginia that must be met in order for you to obtain a federally compliant credential. In order to be eligible for this type of license or ID card, you must provide the appropriate documentation. There are slightly more documents required for this type of credential than for regular licenses and ID cards, because the REAL ID law states that minimum security requirements must be met. As such, you must submit the following items if you want to upgrade to a secure ID:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of legal status
  • Proof of full Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Two proof of residency documents
  • Proof of any name changes, if applicable

All documentation must be provided at the time of your application. If you are missing any items, your application will be denied. In general, your new credential will look similar to a regular license. However, it will include a star printed on the upper righthand side of the physical card, indicating that it meets federal guidelines. If the license or ID is not federally-compliant, it will say, “Federal Limits Apply” on the upper righthand corner instead.

When to Get a Real ID in Virginia

There are multiple options for when you are able to obtain a REAL compliant ID in Virginia. For example, you may obtain the credential when you renew your existing license or ID card, or when you apply for a brand-new license to drive or identification card.

Otherwise, you are also able to obtain a new credential at any time that you wish to upgrade to a Virginia REAL ID drivers license or identification card. Essentially, you can get the credential whenever you want, regardless of whether you are in your license or ID card renewal period. On the other hand, keep in mind that getting the credential during a renewal procedure is a convenient option, as it can save you an extra trip to the DMV.

How to Apply for a REAL ID in Virginia

The process for getting the gold star on your drivers license in VA includes a few steps. While the general procedure is very similar to the current license or ID card application process, it requires additional verification documents to be submitted.

You must apply for a Virginia REAL ID card in person at a DMV office. Therefore, be mindful that these applications cannot be completed online, via mail or over the phone. However, you may be able to start filling out the correct application form online before you visit the DMV in person.

In order to get a federally-compliant credential, you must pay a one-time VA REAL ID surcharge in addition to any other applicable fees. Moreover, you will be asked to provide the DMV with physical documentation that proves your identity, legal status in the United States, Social Security Number (SSN) and state residency. After you have followed all of the necessary steps and presented all the required paperwork, your application will be processed. Then, you will receive your new federal REAL ID in the mail within a few weeks’ time.