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Existing driver's licenses likely good for flights until 2020

June 2016 mock-up of what a Real ID Minnesota driver's license could look like. The actual Real ID license would be developed once the state approves a plan. The 2016 Legislature did not agree on a plan. Courtesy image / Minnesota Department of Public Safety

ST. PAUL — Minnesotans should be able to use their existing driver's licenses and identification cards until 2020 to board domestic airline flights and enter some federal facilities.

State officials announced Monday, May 7, that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has informed them that since the state is making progress in meeting federal Real ID standards, the deadline may be extended. While not an official deadline extension, Minnesota officials said they expect that to be granted.

Real ID licenses and IDs will be available beginning by Oct. 1 of this year, but it will take time to get the new, more secure card to each Minnesotan who wants one.

Without a deadline extension, Minnesotans would need to use other forms of IDs, such as passports, to board airliners and to get into some federal facilities. Gov. Mark Dayton met with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen early this year; lower-level meetings have occurred since then.

The Minnesota Public Safety Department reports that while federal homeland security officials are "not accepting state applications at this time ... the state may request an extension from enforcement later this year, to bridge the gap between when Minnesota begins issuing Real ID-compliant licenses and ID cards and when DHS approves the state's compliance certification."

The new license and ID will be more secure, but for years Minnesota legislators refused to allow Real IDs to be issued, saying they feared the federal government would collect too much information about citizens.

Eventually, legislation was crafted that allows Minnesotans to continue getting the current type of licenses and IDs if they wish.

Most states already issue Real IDs.

Minnesota has hired a private company to provide software needed to make the conversion. The company is working on training for state workers who will issue the licenses and IDs. Training is to start in the middle of this month.

State officials say Minnesotans need take no action to comply with Real ID standards. Citizens may apply for Real ID licenses and IDs beginning Oct. 1, but they should not be needed for two more years.

People who apply for Real ID licenses and IDs before existing ones expire will pay an early renewal fee and will be charged for a four-year license.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.