The Driver’s Licensing Department of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will make secure Real ID Act Complaint Licenses available to Massachusetts Residents in March of 2018. These new driver’s licenses are going to be required to enter Federal facilities, buildings, and installation as well as nuclear power plants and commercial aircraft which are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Individuals who do not have a Real ID Act Complaint Driver’s License can still gain entry into these secure buildings and aircraft. However, those without the required driver’s license will have to use another secure credential such as a United States Passport or passport card.

These new driver’s licenses contain security features to prevent license fraud and counterfeiting. The rationale for these security features is to prevent terrorism and identity theft. The federal law was enacted in 2005 in response to the September 11th hijackings, where terrorists easily obtained fraudulent driver’s licenses. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has federal oversight over the implementation of the law and it requires crosschecking of identities through a federal database.

Driver’s license applicants will have to show valid birth certificates and social security cards in order to obtain driver’s licenses and the authenticity of documents will be subject to review. Several Motor Vehicle Departments have rightfully complained about the law because it was an unfunded federal mandate. There was no funding made available for states to implement the stringent requirements.

Separate and apart from the Real ID Act requirements, in order to obtain a Massachusetts Driver’s License, the applicant must be lawfully present in the United States and he or she must have at least an Employment Authorization for a Class D license and at least Permanent Residence to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

The requirement to have a Real ID complaint driver’s license does not fully go into effect until October of 2020. This means that if your driver’s license will expire prior to this deadline, you do not need to get a Real ID license at this time. You can just wait until your license expires and get a new one at that time.

Massachusetts already uses sophisticated facial recognition technology to detect, prevent, investigate, and prosecute license fraud. This system compares facial images of licenses, learner’s permits, and identification cards with those already on file in the Registry’s expansive database. When a match is found an investigator is alerted and the Registry’s Enforcement Services Team and Special Investigation Unit works closely with specially trained Massachusetts State Troopers on these Comp./Fraud Lic. ID cases.