Lesley Pilgrim, a graduate student living in California, went through many hurdles to get her real ID card.
Her driver’s license was due to expire this month on her birthday and she knew she wanted to switch to real ID. “I travel a lot and have family on the East Coast,” Pilgrim said. “And you always see those signs at the airport that say, ‘Get your real ID now or you’re going to be screwed’ and then you’ll have to bring your passport when you travel.”
Pilgrim is right about the countdown. As of October 1, 2021, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer accept previous versions of driver’s licenses as identification. Each air traveler aged 18 and over will need a valid driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or other acceptable form of identity to travel in the USA.
Driver’s licenses with stars in the top corner are Real ID compliant, which means they’re more secure than older versions. The rules were first announced in 2005, when Congress passed the Real ID Act on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The law aims to create a national standard and ensure that every state has a more secure form of identification.
Pilgrim spent weeks organizing documents, which turned out to be much more complicated than simply locating his passport and Social Security card. “You need original documents and some proof of residency,” she explained, which meant for her printing a gasoline bill and making sure all of her identification documents – including her registration. car – indicated the same address. Easier said than done for a student who has lived in different apartments over the past few years.
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that states may allow real identity applicants to pre-submit required documents electronically, which Pilgrim did. “But you still need to bring your documents in physical form when you go to the DMV,” she said.
When his documents were finally in order, Pilgrim cleared his schedule on a Friday and showed up at the Laguna Beach DMV just as he was opening for the day. “But of course it’s everyone’s great idea. When I arrived, the line was already around the building. She ended up spending over three hours waiting on multiple lines, having her documents processed and, finally, having her picture taken.
So when an envelope from the DMV arrived in the mail a week later, Pilgrim was elated. “When I got it I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so happy to cross this off my to-do list because it’s been weighing me down for months.'”
Then she opened the envelope and took a look at her shiny new Real ID compliant driver’s license. “It’s not what I expected to see,” Pilgrim said. “It took me a while to sign up, like, ‘Oh, man, that’s not fair. It cannot be real. ”
In his new ID photo, Pilgrim wears a face mask.
“I thought there is no TSA agent in the world who would take this,” she said. “And I was even worried about being arrested and a cop thinking it was wrong and getting in trouble for it.”
Pilgrim knows exactly how the confusion happened. At the DMV, the Covid-19 protocols were strictly enforced. “You get to the front row, you keep your mask on and wait for them to tell you to take it off,” she said, joking as a law student considering joining the Army JAG Corps. American, “I’m all about the rules.
“It’s funny, I remember the guy with the camera wearing sunglasses, and I don’t even think we made eye contact. I think he was just on autopilot, ”she recalls. “He just said, ‘Look into the camera,’ then I heard a click.”
“I was like, ‘Wait, wait, he didn’t tell me to take off my mask.’ So I hung around, ”Pilgrim said. “And then he realized his mistake and said, ‘Okay, you can take your mask off. Look into the camera, then click. “When she saw her real ID, Pilgrim realized the DMV had just used the wrong photo.
Now weeks later, the California DMV has agreed to correct the error, and this time around, there shouldn’t be a three-hour wait for Pilgrim.
“I postponed a new photo appointment,” she said. “I hope I go in and out.”