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Washington, other states, now in REAL ID ‘grace period’

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 3, 2017

By Rachel La Corte Associated Press

OLYMPIA – The more than two dozen states and U.S. territories that currently have a temporary extension from the enforcement of federal requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards are now under a grace period through Jan. 22 as the federal government continues its review of states’ progress, Washington state officials said Tuesday.

Washington was among the states that initially had a REAL ID extension through Oct. 10. Officials with the state Department of Licensing said Tuesday they received notification from the Department of Homeland Security that while Washington’s state’s REAL ID request for an additional extension throughout October 2018 is awaiting review from the Secretary of Homeland Security, they will join the other states under a grace period through Jan. 22.

The federal law requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and to be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States. It was passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to strengthen rules for identification needed at airports and federal facilities. Washington lawmakers passed a measure this year creating a two-tiered licensing system that was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Washington state already offers, but does not mandate, enhanced driver’s licenses and IDs that require proof of U.S. citizenship and are valid under the federal law. Starting in July 2018, the state’s standard licenses – which aren’t in line with the federal requirements – will be marked to indicate they are not REAL ID compliant and thus not acceptable for certain purposes by federal authorities.

Residents will have a choice of which license they want. Those with the non-compliant licenses will eventually need additional documentation – such as a passport, permanent resident card or military ID – to board domestic commercial flights and for other federal purposes.

Washington was among several states that were scrambling to address this issue, concerned about the possibility of residents needing additional documentation sooner, based on a January 2018 deadline for boarding flights that the federal government had set for states not in compliance and without extensions. According to the REAL ID website, all states and territories are either in compliance or have an extension.

Christine Anthony, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Licensing, said that her office was told by federal officials that the grace period was put in place because events like the recent hurricanes and the Las Vegas shooting “have delayed that review.”

Federal officials did not address the reasoning for the grace period either on the REAL ID website that shows the current status of each state or by email.

“The grace period allows for DHS to continue the review of any potential open requests for an extension from the states,” DHS spokeswoman Justine Whelan wrote in an email. “Residents will not experience a functional change with respect to enforcement during the grace period.”

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