Legalese — New Drivers License Requirements

photo credit: Lori Duff
photo credit: Lori Duff

UPDATE: March 10, 2014 4:51pm Apparently due to the mass confusion in the rolling out of this law and the non-compliance and extension requests by some states, the deadline has been extended to “no earlier than 2016” according to the Department of Homeland Security.  At that point there will be a three month warning period for people showing up at the airport with a non-starred driver’s license.   This new deadline came out on December 20, 2013, so my information about the dates was only a little old.  Nonetheless, it is still good information because when you renew your license, whenever this is, you will need to know what documentation to bring.  None of the substance has changed — just the deadline for people born after 1964.  People like me — born after 1964 but whose licenses don’t expire until 2017 — will still need to renew early.


For most of us grownups who have had driver’s licenses for some time, getting it renewed is no big deal. You mail it in or do it online somewhere near your birthday in whatever year it expires. That’s all. Or, that was all. That ease of use is a thing of the past.

According to the Federal Real ID Act of 2005, any driver’s license that is going to be used as your photo id for federal things like getting through airport security or entering a federal building requires a Secure ID which is identified by the gold star on it. This reminds me a little bit of Dr. Seuss’ Star-Bellied-Sneetches, but, like with most things, it doesn’t matter what I think.

In order to get the magic Gold Star, you have to really really prove who you are. This should cut down on fake IDs, or legitimate driver’s licenses being issued to fraudulent (and potentially dangerous) people. So, rather than just going to Drivers Services with your old license and a check, you have to have the following:
1. An original or certified copy of your birth certificate or other proof of identity AND proof of U.S. citizenship and lawful presence in the U.S. If you have a passport, that will do.
2. Your Social Security card or other proof of your full SSN (or your letter of denial if you are not eligible for a SSN.)
3. Two different proofs of your residential address. (Like a bill in your name going to your house or a bank statement with your name and address on it – but then what if all the utilities and accounts are in your husband’s name? Could be a problem…..)
4. Additional documentation if you are a non-citizen or have had a legal name change.

The legal name change is the one that will hang a lot of people up. Many women do not currently use the names that are on their birth certificates. For that you would need a certified copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree, or whatever legal paperwork changed your name. For some people, like my mother-in-law, this kind of thing would be difficult. She never used her given name – Fairy – and instead went by Peggy. Peggy was on her bank accounts and her utility bills. I think Peggy was even on her driver’s license. How would she prove she is the same person?

Also, you may need to renew your license earlier than your driver’s license expiration date tells you. For example, all people born after December 1,1964, like me, have to renew their licenses by December 1, 2014 – this year. If you were born before December 1, 1964, you have until December 1, 2017 to make the switch.

The fact that my driver’s license itself says it expires in 2017 is not of consequence to the federal government. My license to drive will not expire this year – according to the Department of Drivers Services it is still good until 2017, but if I want to use my driver’s license as ID for getting on an airplane or going into Federal Court, I need my special gold star. I’d bet that on December 2, 2014, there are going to be a lot of angry people who didn’t know at the airport.

Don’t be one of them. Before you get your license renewed, go to the Department of Drivers Services website to see what documentation you need to get your license renewed.

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only. In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation. I have not done that here.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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