“This is, historically, a little slower time for us, and our offices are busy all the time now,” said John Lenarz, director of license and passport services for the county. “A lot of it is the REAL ID.”
REAL ID is a federal standard for identification chiefly among travelers, but also for anyone who wishes to enter a federal facility. Many states have moved in recent years to have drivers licenses comply with the standard, but Minnesota is among the last. October 1 is the deadline for people who want to travel by air–even domestically–or across international borders and anyone who wishes to enter a federal facility to have a REAL ID-compliant form of identification. The state continues its push by providing online information about what it means, what customers may need relative to their individual needs and travel habits, and what to bring with them to apply.
Lenarz said anyone who has a valid U.S. passport or passport card is already REAL ID ready.
“It’s a little confusing for even us, so for the average citizen out there, it’s a challenge,” said Lenarz. The list of documents to prove residency, identity, and full names can be daunting.
“We’ve noticed customers that are having the easiest time going through are going (online first),” he said.
What may complicate matters before October is the state’s anticipated roll-out of a replacement computer registration after the MNLARS debacle of the past few years. Lenarz said that implementation is scheduled for November.
“So, on top of having all the customers coming in to apply for a driver’s license, we’re going to have to have staff go to off-site training to learn how to use this new system,” said Lenarz. “It’s kind of giving us the challenge of a lifetime.”
Lenarz said he does feel confident the county is ready to handle the workload, and encourages anyone with questions to visit the state and federal REAL ID websites and to be patient when they arrive to try to renew or apply for new licenses or passports.