It’s time for some real talk about REAL-ID.

Today is Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 — one year from today, if you don’t have a REAL-ID compliant license, you will need a passport in order to board an airplane domestically or visit a loved one stationed at Fort Drum.

Here’s why:

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed the REAL-ID Act designed to secure forms of identification that would allow people access to federal facilities such as airports, military installations, or other federal facilities. They instituted a deadline for states to comply of Oct. 1, 2020. This law passed Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on May 11, 2005.

New York state started issuing compliant REAL-ID licenses through Department of Motor Vehicle locations in October of 2017. Our three DMVs in Oswego County have seen a tremendous increase in wait times largely due to REAL-ID and questions regarding the documentation needed.

One avenue to learn more is by visiting — — this site was created by New York state and has a step-by-step checklist that you can work through at home before your DMV visit. You can even print off a checklist to be sure you have the proper documents before leaving home and heading to your local DMV.

There are three options for a driver’s license or non-drivers ID in New York state. Below I’ve summarized the types of licenses offered:

• Standard license or non-driver ID — this license will be stamped, “not for federal purposes.” If you don’t plan to fly or visit a federal facility, then this may work for you. No need to upgrade your license, just visit your local DMV when it’s time to renew. NOTE: You can fly domestically by using a valid US Passport.

• REAL-ID license or non-driver ID — allows you to fly within the United States, enter a federal facility or military base. This does not allow you to cross the border to Canada or Mexico. To get this license you need a certified birth certificate or valid US Passport AND either an original Social Security Card or W-2 or pay stub with your full Social Security number on it. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’ve ever changed your name, e.g. marriage, you need official document(s) that prove your legal name change such as a certified marriage certificate, certified divorce decree, or certified court papers. In some cases, multiple documents verifying name change are required.

• Enhanced driver’s license or non-driver ID — allows you to fly domestically, cross into Canada and Mexico via land or seaports and it allows you to enter federal facilities including military installations. This license requires a certified US birth certificate AND either an original Social Security card, W-2 or 1099, or a pay stub that has your full Social Security number on it; AND any name change information (e.g. marriage) with the corresponding documentation such as certified marriage certificate, certified divorce decree, or certified court papers. There is an additional $30 fee for this license.

For the REAL-ID license or non-driver ID and the Enhanced driver’s license or non-driver ID, you will also need two proofs of residence. One form can be your current driver’s license if it has your correct physical street address on it; a PO Box is not allowed. Other forms of proof of residence can be a bank statement, utility bill, or computer printed pay stub with your full physical street address.

Some have found it easiest to simply renew their standard driver’s license and carry a passport when flying or attempting to access a federal facility. The Oswego County Clerk’s office does serve as a Passport Agent and can help you apply for a US Passport. DMVs do not process passport applications, so please visit the County Clerk’s office at 46 E. Bridge St., Oswego for a passport.

Finally, we get two questions very frequently: do children under 16 need an enhanced license to cross the border into Canada and do all children need a passport to fly out of the United States? Children younger than 16 can cross the border into Canada or Mexico by land or by sea if they have a certified copy of their birth certificate and are accompanied by adults who have valid required travel documents such as a passport or REAL-ID compliant license. In order to fly to another country, yes, all people regardless of age need a US Passport to fly into another country.

If you have other questions please feel free to email or visit our Facebook page –

Michael C. Backus is the Clerk of Oswego County and County Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Oswego County offers local DMV services in Fulton, Oswego, and Pulaski.

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