REAL ID in Massachusetts

License and ID

The federal REAL ID Act mandates that certain license and identification card physical security standards as well as identity security standards are met in the license and ID card issuance process.

On July 26, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation that authorizes Massachusetts to meet these federal standards and issue REAL ID compliant credentials. It is important to know that the signing of this law does not mean customers need to act immediately. The license in your wallet is acceptable for federal identification.

Actions for Massachusetts License and ID Card Holders

There are no actions for customers to take at this time. All valid, unexpired Massachusetts credentials are acceptable for federal purposes through October 2017. Federal purposes includes allowing card holders entrance into federal facilities, federal buildings and for boarding domestic aircraft. Customers should not worry that they will be turned away from boarding domestic flights or entering federal buildings with their current Massachusetts license or ID.

Countdown to REAL ID Implementation in Massachusetts

License/ID Card Design Security - As of July 24, 2016, the RMV has license and ID identification cards in production that meet the physical security requirements of the federal REAL ID Act.
Read more about the new card

Authority to Issue REAL IDs in Massachusetts - On July 26, 2016, Governor Baker signed a law which authorizes the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue license and identification credentials compliant with the REAL ID Act. Read more about the Governor’s announcement

RMV Regulation & System Upgrades - The RMV cannot begin issuing REAL IDs immediately. To become fully compliant, there is a regulation process to follow and systems work to do before the RMV can capture the required information needed to issue licenses or IDs that comply with the REAL ID Act.

Anticipated REAL ID Implementation - The RMV anticipates being able to begin issuing REAL IDs in April 2018. Until that time, the RMV will seek extensions from the Department of Homeland Security so our credentials will remain acceptable for federal identification.

Key DHS Enforcement Dates

The U.S. government announced in January of 2016 that in 2018 people with a license or ID from a state that is not compliant with REAL ID, or from a state that does not have a REAL ID extension, will need to show additional identification to board a domestic aircraft.

In 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID compliant license or ID or the traveler will need to show another acceptable form of identification for air travel.

For more information about REAL ID Enforcement:

View the REAL ID FAQS published by the Department of Homeland Security

FAQs for Massachusetts License or ID Card Holders

  • What is REAL ID?
    The federal REAL ID Act was passed in the wake of the 9/11 report. The act established minimum standards that states must follow when issuing and producing driver's licenses and ID cards.
    A REAL ID credential can either be an ID card or a driver's license. You will not need both a REAL ID identification card and a license. Consistent with current RMV practice, you may hold either an ID card or a driver's license.
  • Do I need to get one right now?
    Not right away. Now that the law has been signed, the Registry has some work to do on regulations and systems. The Registry anticipates issuing REAL IDs beginning in April 2018. However, current RMV licenses and ID’s will continue to be acceptable for several years.
    RMV policy is to allow license and ID holders to renew one year in advance of expiration. That policy will stay in place to ideally allow customers who wish to obtain a REAL ID as much opportunity to obtain one in their regular renewal cycle, as opposed to having to make an additional trip just to obtain a REAL ID credential.
  • Why do I need one?
    Today a REAL ID or an ID presented from a state with a valid REAL ID extension, such as Massachusetts, is required to enter certain federal facilities and buildings. Beginning in 2020, you will need a REAL ID compliant card in your wallet to board a domestic flight.
  • Is Massachusetts currently REAL ID compliant?
    Yes. The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has been granted extensions by the Department of Homeland Security since 2014. Now that the Act has passed in Massachusetts, the RMV will be submitting another extension until all the work is completed to issue REAL IDs.
  • When do I need to have one?You will need to have one by the year 2020 for federal identification purposes. Extensions provide Massachusetts license and ID card holders with access to federal facilities while the RMV readies for full implementation of the Act. This will be in effect until 2020 when access to domestic aircraft will require a REAL ID.
  • Are the licenses and ID cards the RMV issues now considered secure?
    Yes. The existing Massachusetts card is a secure credential. The RMV periodically updates its license security during its license contracting process in order to prevent fraud. A newly designed card, with enhanced security features, went into production on July 24, 2016 and meets the physical card security requirements of the REAL ID Act.
  • What do I need to do to get my REAL ID credential?
    You will need to provide documentation that proves date of birth; social security number; proof of address of principal residence; and evidence of citizenship or lawful presence in the United States.
  • What if I’m not a U.S. Citizen?
    If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will have to have your immigration status confirmed through a check conducted with the federal government’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.
  • Do I have to go to a Service Center to get a REAL ID driver's license or ID card?
    Yes. Everyone has to visit a Service Center to get the ID the first time and bring the above documentation with you, even if you are a long time license holder and just need a renewal. After the first time, you won’t need to go back to the RMV. You can renew online.
  • How will I remember when my REAL ID expires?
    The RMV will continue to use your birthdate as your expiration date unless you are not a U.S. Citizen and have an authorized stay in the United States that is less than 5 years.
  • How will the RMV distinguish between a 5-year driver's license/ID card and those issued for shorter duration based on the holder's lawful status?
    The RMV will continue to use your birthdate as your expiration date unless you are not a U.S. Citizen and have an authorized stay in the United States that is less than 5 years.
  • Do customers have to get a new picture at every renewal under REAL ID?
    No. Once you have visited a service center to obtain your initial REAL ID, you will have the option to renew remotely, such as through or AAA, until it is time for a new picture. The RMV will continue to require a new photo every 10 years which is more stringent than every 16 years as required by the REAL ID Act.
  • There has been a great deal of concern about customer wait times at the RMV. What is the potential impact of REAL ID on RMV operations and service levels?
    The RMV is working hard to improve customer service. We are already putting plans in place to implement REAL ID. Our goal is to make it quick and easy to get your REAL ID when the time comes.

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