New Jersey is now one of only four states that does not yet offer the more-secure identification cards that residents will need next year to board domestic flights and enter secure federal buildings, but the state says it will meet the Oct. 10 deadline.
The state is working to comply with the post-9/11 federal REAL ID Act, which sets uniform security standards for identification cards. The federal government has granted extensions for New Jersey, Maine, Oklahoma, and Oregon to comply and start issuing identification cards and driver’s licenses with the same machine-readable technology, descriptive information, and security features.
Technical glitches and miscommunications between the federal government and state agencies have marred rollouts in a handful of states. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security classifies those states as compliant, but in Maryland and California, for example, the new identification cards that residents thought followed the REAL ID Act are no longer valid, because of a mix-up over acceptable documents.
Officials at New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission had planned to start offering REAL ID-compliant cards to the public last month, but a gradual agency-by-agency rollout now is set to begin soon.
“The silver lining is we’ve learned so much from other states,” including pitfalls to avoid, Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the commission’s chief administrator, said Tuesday.
New Jersey and the three other non-compliant states have two months to begin issuing the cards. U.S. residents who want to fly or enter secure federal facilities must have identification that meets the standards of the REAL ID Act starting Oct. 1, 2020. Passports and military IDs are acceptable.
"Our customers need to know they don’t need to panic,” Fulton said.
New Jersey is buying new document scanners, because it bought ones a couple years ago that no longer work with modern passports, she said. (The commission will use the scanners for other services.) The state also is working through technological bugs it found in the last three months and testing a system for making appointments. All that pushed back the timetable.
Pennsylvania received several extensions before it started offering REAL ID-compliant cards in March. Dozens of other states also had received extensions. State lawmakers’ concerns about privacy delayed compliance with the 2005 law.
As part of New Jersey’s preparations to offer REAL ID-compliant cards, the Motor Vehicle Commission has moved more driver services online, hired hundreds of workers, upgraded equipment and software, and replaced servers. The state expects millions of residents to opt for REAL ID-compliant identification cards and driver’s licenses.
» READ MORE: PennDot answers most-asked questions about REAL ID
Based on other states’ experiences, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation anticipates about a quarter of its customer base — 2.5 million people — will get REAL ID-complaint cards, including 1.3 million people who will apply before the federal deadline next October.
Since Pennsylvania began offering REAL ID-compliant cards on March 1, PennDot has issued more than 290,000 of them.