Guest Column: South Carolina’s drivers licenses changing; what you need to know

MICHAEL RYAN / STAFF South Carolina motorists should begin preparing now for a change to “REAL ID” driver’s licenses in order to be able to use them as identification for airline flights, secure federal buildings and more beginning in 2020.

You may have heard South Carolina’s licenses and identification cards are changing. It’s true.

 

But you can take steps now to make the transition as easy as possible if you’re interested in changing yours.

It’s optional to change your license or ID, but you must change it if you’d like to use it as your identification to pass airport security, enter secure federal buildings and visit military installations nationwide in the future.

If you don’t change your South Carolina license to what’s called a “REAL ID,” you must have a different form of federally accepted identification, such as a valid U.S. Passport or military ID, to do the above activities in the future.

REAL ID is a federal law. It came as a result of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to standardize how every state issues licenses and identification cards. It is truly a security measure, and it has nothing to do with your driving privileges, right to vote, or right to receive federal benefits for which you’re entitled.

You do not have to change to a REAL ID to drive, vote, receive federal benefits for which you’re entitled (such as Social Security or Veterans Affairs), access a hospital, enter a non-secure federal building (such as a post office), or participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations even at the federal level.

But people who know they will be boarding a commercial flight, even domestically, entering secure federal buildings or visiting military installations may want to consider taking the steps now to change their current South Carolina license to a REAL ID license.

The state department of motor vehicles will begin issuing the new cards in the first quarter of 2018. But if you know you want to change, you can start the process now by bringing certain documents to an SCDMV branch near you.

The SCDMV must have on file all of the following:

Proof of Identity (government-issued birth certificate or valid U.S. Passport)

Proof of Social Security Number (government-issued Social Security card or your most recent, original W-2)

Two Proofs of Current, Physical South Carolina address

Proof of all of your legal name changes (if your legal name is something different than what appears on your birth certificate or passport)

When my wife moved to South Carolina from Georgia a few months ago, she brought all of the above documents with her, to change her license at that time. You may be in a similar situation, and your documents may already be on file with the SCDMV if you moved to the state and received a South Carolina license or if you received your first South Carolina license or identification card during or after November 2010.

You may complete the “REAL ID Document Check” at www.scdmvonline.com to confirm if the SCDMV already has your documents. If the agency does, you need to take no action for now.

Once the new cards are available, a license that is a “REAL ID” will have a gold star in the corner. On and after Oct. 1, 2020, you must have a license with a gold star if you want to use that card as your identification to do the federal activities I mentioned above. The SCDMV anticipates longer lines in its branch offices once the new cards are available, so if you bring your documents now, you put yourself in a better position to order your license from home in 2018.

Right now, the SCDMV has an average initial wait time of eight minutes across the state. It takes only a couple of minutes to get your REAL ID documents on file – trust me, I’ve timed it. Once your documents are on file, you may be able to order your REAL ID license from home if:

You’re a U.S. citizen,

With a regular (Class D, E, F, G, M, or any combination of those) license

Your driving privileges are in good standing

You didn’t renew by mail the last time you renewed.

There’s almost no reason to be waiting in line when the new licenses are available.

If you don’t know where some of your needed documents are, you must go directly to the agency that issues whichever document you’re missing.

For example, if you were born in South Carolina, the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Vital Statistics issues birth certificates. Here on the state line, we have many residents who were born in Georgia. If that’s the case, you may contact the Georgia Department of Public Health for a government-issued copy of your birth certificate.

There is also a third-party service available called VitalChek. If you go to VitalChek.com, you will enter information about where you were born, pay with a valid credit card, and VitalChek will contact your state of birth and mail your government-issued birth certificate to your home.

Finally, a question I get a lot is, “How much does this new license cost?” It will cost $25 to change your current license to a REAL ID license. There’s been no change in the cost of a South Carolina license. The price of a license is set in legislation, and it would take a change in state law to change the price of a card.

If your license expires between now and the time REAL ID licenses are available and you know you want to change your license, I suggest renewing your license online for half the cost of what you will pay for a new license in person. The SCDMV issues five-year licenses online for $12.50. If you do it in person, you’ll pay $25 for a 10-year card. Regardless, you must pay again in order to change to a REAL ID license, but remember, you have plenty of time to do so.

On and after October 1, 2020, you must have a REAL ID license or identification to board commercial flights, enter secure federal facilities, and visit military installations. There’s no need to rush to change your card, but you should take the steps to prepare for the change now.

You can find all of this information and more by visiting the SCDMV’s website, www.scdmvonline.com. You may email REALID@scdmv.net or call 803-896-5000 with specific questions.

The writer is serves in the South Carolina House of Representatives from District 83 in Aiken and Edgefield Counties.

 

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