Earlier this year there were questions about whether New Jersey was making sufficient progress to become compliant with the federal REAL ID Act, which could impact whether you could use your driver’s license to get on an airplane.

State officials say good progress is being made, and Garden State residents have nothing to worry about.

The real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, sets standards to be followed for state driver’s licenses and identity documents to be used to board an airplane or enter a federal building or nuclear power plant.

According to New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Ray Martinez, it’s taken several states, including New Jersey, a good bit of time to re-organize their systems in order to become compliant with the REAL ID requirements and standards.

He stressed the Garden State has been granted an extension to become compliant until this October, “because the federal government understands that we are working to become compliant.”

Martinez explained once the REAL ID system is up and running, New Jersey will give you a choice about what kind of driver’s license you get or renew, one that is REAL ID compliant, or one that is not.

If your New Jersey driver’s license is not compliant, then you would need a passport to get on plane or enter a federal building after September 2020.

Martinez explained the requirements to get a REAL ID license will be very similar to those currently used to get a Jersey driver’s license.

“But one of the things we will be doing is scanning those documents, which we don’t do now, scanning the documents that are presented, in addition to verifying them.”

He said this will be done “so that in the event there is a problem, whether it’s a criminal issue or a terrorist issue, that those documents can be pulled back up to find out, well, why was this issued? Was it properly issued?”

One of the REAL ID REQUIREMENTS will be to show proof of your social security number, which can be your social security card, a W2 form, a letter from the Social Security Administration or a pay stub.

You will also need to present two proofs of address and a valid passport, or birth certificate or certificate of citizenship.

Martinez stressed “the fall of 2020 is when all states will be required to have this in place if they want their licenses to be recognized for federal purposes.”

He also reiterated “New Jersey has an extension that runs through October of this year. We are very, very, very close to completing our REAL ID project.”

“We are in constant communication with the federal Department of Homeland Security, they know exactly where we are and I trust that they have the same confidence that we do that we will get done by October.”

He said once the REAL ID system is completed and the program is ready to be rolled out, which will mostly likely be in the beginning of next year, there will be a major campaign mounted to inform the public if they want a REAL ID compliant license they will have to come in with appropriate identification proof and get one by September of 2020.”

“Customers will have to decide before they come to Motor Vehicles, whether they want a REAL ID compliant license or not,” he said.

He stressed, however, that once the state starts issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses this fall or early next year, “that does not mean people need to rush in to get a new license. If you have a non REAL ID compliant license (and use it to get on a plane or into a federal building) it will be deemed acceptable up until 2020.”

He noted the REAL ID licenses will look slightly different than non compliant licenses, and “we already have a very strong driver’s license standard in New Jersey and we do not intend to reduce that standard, even for our non REAL ID compliant licenses.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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