Minnesota’s Real ID Rollout Going Smoothly, Officials Report

Though staff at the Department of Motor Vehicles are seeing lengthy wait times, it’s due to the more time-intensive application process, not technical difficulties, officials say.

by Mark Fischenich, The Free Press / October 5, 2018

(TNS) — MANKATO, Minn. — The lines are longer at county licensing centers in Mankato and North Mankato this week, prompted by a more stringent process for issuing new and renewed driver's licenses.

But the implementation of Real ID in Minnesota is going much more smoothly than the 2017 botched switch to a new statewide computer software known as the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System.

"The system itself is behaving quite nicely," said Michael Stalberger, director of Taxpayer Services for Blue Earth County. "We kind of planned for a rough roll-out after MnLARS."

Still, longer waits were inevitable with Monday's statewide launch of Real ID, the congressional mandate that sets minimum security standards for the issuance of driver's licenses across the 50 states.

"We're still seeing lines at the office just because it's a learning curve," Stalberger said.

Staff must go through multiple computer screens, and drivers must present more documentation than when obtaining traditional driver's licenses.

"We could do a regular driver's license in two or three minutes," he said. "We're seeing 15-20 minutes on a Real ID."

Nicollet County Public Services Manager Jaci Kopet is asking residents to arrive at the Government Center in St. Peter no later than 4 p.m. "to allow for sufficient processing time."

For the vast majority of drivers, licensing staff will be well practiced in the new system before they have to renew their licenses, which is something that's required only every four years. And for people who don't have an expiring license — or don't need to update one because of a change of address — there's absolutely no hurry to get the Real ID-compliant license.

Most people will experience no repercussions for continuing with a standard driver's license until it expires. Eventually, a Real ID will be required for domestic airline flights or to visit a military base, but that's only after Oct. 1 of 2020.

So state and local officials are encouraging people to wait unless their license is expiring or they have a change in address or name.

Stalberger said Blue Earth County is seeing no indication that people are confused about the deadline and are showing up for a Real ID before their license expires. The office is a bit busier than typical only because some people who have a new address delayed updating their license until the Real ID was available.

"Not a lot of people saying 'I thought I had to get this done,'" Stalberger said.

In fact, even people who have to renew or update their license aren't required to get a Real ID-compliant driver's license, which costs the same but requires more time and paperwork. If they aren't air travelers and don't have family on a military base, the old-style Minnesota driver's license will continue to serve their purposes indefinitely.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which oversees driver's licenses statewide, reported that as of Wednesday afternoon less than 1,800 Real IDs had been issued since Monday, compared to more than 11,000 standard driver's licenses.

For people who are itching to get the Real ID license, documents are required to verify identity, date of birth and citizenship, Social Security number and residency. Common examples of a quartet of acceptable documents would be a driver's license with a current address plus a recent pay stub or utility bill that includes a home address, a birth certificate and a Social Security card.

For people missing one of the documents, there's a long list of alternative options for each of the categories on the state website at REALID.dps.mn.gov and on Blue Earth County's at www.blueearthcountymn.gov/1439/Minnesota-REAL-IDs.

Options also exist for starting the application online to save time, although people will still need to complete the process at their local licensing center.

©2018 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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