The REAL ID, part 2

Oct 11, 2019

Last week, I wrote about the REAL ID and the need to have a REAL ID or valid passport by October 1, 2020, if you travel domestically or visit federal buildings.

I learned about the REAL ID about six months ago. Since I do not have a passport, I started looking into the requirements. I picked up an “RMV Identification Documents Checklist” and got started.

First thing to know—the RMV will not accept copies or laminated documents. In addition, an original state-issued document will usually have an official seal embossed on it. Next, you must prove four facts in order to obtain a REAL ID—social security number, lawful presence, date of birth, and Massachusetts residency.

Social Security Number

A million years ago, I laminated my social security card. So, I needed a replacement card. I went to the social security website ( to request my card. I had to set up an online account. Once the account was verified, I was able to order my replacement card. The entire process—from first visiting the website to receiving my card in the mail—took about a month.

Lawful Presence and Date of Birth

I have a certified birth certificate, so that was an easy checkmark.

Your REAL ID name must match the name that appears on your “Lawful Presence” document. I use my married name, so I had to show the legal transition from my maiden name to married name. I have my marriage license, but it is hand-written with a barely visible embossed seal, and I wasn’t sure if it would be considered “official.”

I went online to and found the contact number of the county clerk’s office where we were married. They were very nice, but were unable to confirm that the license was official. If I wanted to order a new certificate, it would cost $60 ($30 for the certificate and $30 for a document search since we were married before the state’s records were computerized). They expected that it would take about a week to send me a new certificate once they received the request. Estimating a week for the mailed request to get to them, a week to process, and a week to mail back the certificate, it would take at least three weeks to get a new marriage certificate.

Massachusetts Residency

For a REAL ID, two documents are needed to prove residency. I provided a property tax bill and my monthly mortgage statement as both showed my address. If you use a bill, it must be dated within 60 days of your visit to the RMV. Since my Massachusetts driver’s license has not expired, I could have used this as one of my residency documents.

Online Application

I went to the Mass RMV website ( to start my application online. This can save time once you get to the RMV. I got through most of the online application, but it requested information about my birth certificate that I couldn’t find. So, I didn’t complete the pre-application. But, I found it useful because it confirmed that I had all of the paperwork that I would need.


During the online process, I learned that I could have my new ID marked “Veteran.” If I wanted to include this notation, I needed to bring my DD-214, which is paperwork I received when I left the military. If I hadn’t done the online paperwork, I would not have known of this option. Having my license marked with “Veteran” will allow me to prove my status easily. For example, if a business offers a discount to veterans, now I will be able to show my license. While not a requirement, I think it’s a nice feature.

Last Friday morning, rather than going to the RMV, I went to the AAA office on Route 114 in Peabody. When I arrived, there were 10-15 people ahead of me. I waited in line for about 10 minutes to check-in. At check-in, the clerk screened my materials and tentatively approved them. After check-in, while I was waiting my turn at the photo desk, I could hear people checking in, many planning to get their REAL ID. A few knew they didn’t have their paperwork and were just coming in to make sure they understood what they needed. Some thought they had everything together, and were either allowed to continue waiting with me, or were given information on how to get the correct paperwork. The staff at the AAA were very friendly and helpful.

I waited about a half hour before I was called to complete my application. I was a little concerned about my marriage certificate as I was presenting the hand written one with the worn down seal. The clerk studied it very closely and did allow it. Everything was in order, my picture was taken and the $25 fee for a duplicate ID was paid. I will have my REAL ID in a week or two.  All in all—because of advance preparations—it was a fairly painless process.