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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Going to Fairchild? You’ll need proper ID

Getting onto Fairchild Air Force Base could soon pose a problem for many Washington residents. The most common state driver’s license and identification card won’t be accepted.

Starting Aug. 15, Fairchild security will require federally recognized identification under the Real ID Act. The law applies to any visitor to the base, whether they work for a contractor or a vendor, have an appointment with a base official or want to visit someone who lives in base housing.

Employees of companies that work on Fairchild or provide supplies are typically issued a credential, a base official said Friday. But to get that credential, they’ll have to supply identification that meets the law.

Washington state’s standard driver’s license and ID card don’t qualify because the person who receives one doesn’t have to prove he or she is an American citizen or a legal resident.

Washington does offer an Enhanced Driver’s License, which requires a person to show proof of citizenship along with proof of residence. That license, however, costs $108 for six years, compared to $54 for a standard license. A person with a standard license can upgrade it to an Enhanced license for $9 for each year remaining on the license.

Washington residents who have a standard driver’s license can use other identification to gain access to the base, said Scott King, of Fairchild public affairs.

They can provide a U.S. passport or passport card, a permanent resident card, a foreign passport with the appropriate stamp or endorsement, a Native American tribal document, certain U.S. government issued identification, military identification, and for those between 16 and 18, a school ID with a photo. Those under 16 don’t need identification.

A driver’s license or ID card from most other states would be accepted as long as it is Real ID-compliant. Starting Oct. 10, Idaho residents will need an enhanced license from that state.

The Real ID Act passed in 2005, but Washington legislators have not been able to agree on a way to change state law, which does not require proof of citizenship or legal residency to get a license to drive. Some legislators have resisted requiring that proof, arguing it would mean undocumented immigrants will not obtain licenses, which prevents them from getting auto liability insurance required by law.

For years Washington got an extension of its exemption from the Real ID law. At the start of 2015, the federal government gave the Legislature until October to develop a state licensing law that met the federal standards. Lawmakers didn’t, and in late October the Department of Homeland Security told the state the exemption was being canceled. Some other military bases and federal facilities in Washington already have begun requiring enhanced driver’s licenses or other federally approved identification for visitors.