Two years may seem like a long time, but the Division of Motor Vehicles is ramping up operations to ensure Granite Staters are prepared for the all-important deadline of the federal REAL ID law.
For the first time last Saturday, six DMV locations were open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. specifically to process new driver licenses and renewals under the REAL ID law, which requires residents to provide a variety of extra documentation to prove their identity. The offices in Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Salem, Dover, and Twin Mountain will continue to be open during those hours on the second Saturday of each month.
The physical changes to driver licenses under the law are minimal — a gold star in the upper right corner — but beginning Oct. 1, 2020, only REAL ID licenses will be accepted for air travel and to enter federal facilities.
Passengers will still be able to use passports and military identification cards to board planes, though.
“We’re adding these Saturday hours to make it as convenient as possible,” said Larry Crowe, a spokesman for the DMV. “We have a tremendous amount of people who are eligible and a small amount of people who have done it.”
There are roughly 1.1 million driver license holders in the state, according to the DMV, and only 170,000 of them have REAL ID-compliant licenses.
Crowe stressed that before anyone goes to the DMV to renew a license they should visit the special website the state has set up to publicize the requirements: getreal.nh.gov.
The federal REAL ID law, passed in 2005, has strict rules about what documentation is acceptable.
Visitors to the DMV will have to bring:
— A certified copy of their birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, or a valid passport
— A Social Security card, pay stub with full Social Security number, W-2 statement, or 1099 tax statement.
— Two proofs of New Hampshire residency, which could include a valid state driver license, vehicle registration, lease agreement, or property tax bill, among other options.
Anyone whose name on their current license is different than their birth certificate — married women who changed their surname, for example — will also have to bring all documentation of the changes.
REAL ID has not traditionally been particularly popular in the Granite State. After former President George W. Bush signed it into law, New Hampshire and five other states passed laws rejecting it.
“Here in New Hampshire, we pride ourselves on respecting the privacy of our neighbors,” then-governor John Lynch said at the time, amid concerns that residents would have no choice but to input copies of their important documents into federal and state databases.
But in 2016, the Legislature passed a law implementing an optional REAL ID license in New Hampshire.
Residents can go to the DMV to get a REAL ID-compliant license any day of the week, but the new Saturday hours are only for that service. The DMV does not currently have a set end-date for the Saturday hours, but it will reevaluate the program if it appears people are not taking advantage of it.
Before obtaining a REAL ID license, visit getreal.nh.gov for more information.