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Maybe you should go ahead and get that enhanced license or passport

A TSA officer, left, checks a passenger's ticket, boarding pass and passport as part of security screening at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Washington state was granted an extension to get into compliance with the REAL ID Act.
A TSA officer, left, checks a passenger's ticket, boarding pass and passport as part of security screening at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Washington state was granted an extension to get into compliance with the REAL ID Act. Associated Press file, 2014

Washington state has just received a year-long extension for when it needs to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

The law requires state driver’s licenses and identification cards to have security enhancements and be issued to those who can prove they’re legal U.S. citizens.

Washington, as have several other states, has been given repeat extensions so it complies with the law, including by offering driver’s licenses with security enhancements.

The latest extension, issued Wednesday, runs through Oct. 10, 2018. Federal enforcement begin will Oct. 1, 2020.

“This extension gives Washington residents about three more years to decide if they will need a new type of identification,” Pat Kohler, director of the state Department of Licensing, said Wednesday in an agency blog post.

That’s good news if you don’t have an enhanced driver’s license, a passport or another type of identification that qualifies.

But eventually you’re going to need to be REAL ID compliant, one way or another.

WHERE DOES THE STATE STAND?

Earlier this year state lawmakers passed legislation setting up a two-tiered licensing system to bring the state into compliance and Gov. Jay Inslee signed the measure.

Under the new system, drivers licenses will be marked either compliant or non-compliant with the REAL ID law.

“The Port of Seattle has been working closely with the state of Washington to ensure that the traveling public can make it through TSA checkpoints and to their flights,” Perry Cooper, senior media relations manager at Sea-Tac Airport recently told The News Tribune.

“This year, we worked with state legislators and the Department of Licensing on legislation that would bring our state into compliance. We were glad to see that passed and signed by the governor, but it will take some time to be implemented.”

So, with the state on the road to compliance, this could be a good time to consider your options.

ENHANCED VS. STANDARD DRIVER’S LICENSE

This can be the simplest remedy, one that you might already have in your wallet, and can be the most cost-effective if you’re getting one now.

“If a person goes in to get an enhanced license and they have two years left on their current license (for example), they will only pay the extra fee for those years, the DOL’s Christine Anthony said in response to questions from The News Tribune via email.

Upgrading to an enhanced license costs $4 per year for the time remaining on your license, so someone with two years remaining on a driver’s license would pay $8.

If your license is expiring and you decide to get the enhanced license, there’s a $54 renewal fee and a $24 upgrade fee for a total of $78.

If you are getting your license for the first time and you get an enhanced license, it will cost $113.

(If you already have an enhanced license, renewal is $65 for five years or $78 for six years. See bit.ly/2yAoNTH for other examples and fees.)

Starting in July, non-enhanced licenses will be marked to indicate they did not comply with the REAL ID law.

“In July of next year, when people come in to renew their standard driver license, they will receive a standard license that will indicate it’s not valid for federal purposes,”Anthony said.

Those that are marked non-compliant will be issued when it’s time to renew, if that’s the type a person chooses.

So, do we still need to race around and get the money together for passports or enhanced licenses if we’re just flying domestically? For now, it’s not critical.

“The Department of Licensing expects to be in full compliance with the REAL ID Act by fall 2018,” Anthony said, “at which point we will apply for the October 2020 enforcement date. For residents in states that are compliant, (the Department of Homeland Security) has said they won’t enforce the law for air travel until October 2020.”

“Many people already have REAL ID acceptable documents, such as passports and military ID, so they wouldn’t need to get an enhanced license,” Anthony added.

Details on what you need to apply for an enhanced license are at bit.ly/2zBy4c.

PASSPORTS

If you’re tired of the compliant/noncompliant drama and have international travel plans, then it’s time to get a passport or make sure it’s up to date.

Currently, the routine application process for a passport takes four to six weeks. You can get a passport card, book or both.

The card is good for re-entry to the United States at land border crossings or ports of entry by sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It is REAL ID compliant for domestic flights but can’t be used for international air travel.)

The cost for a first-time adult applicant can range from $55 for just the card to $165 for the card and book. A book with more pages (for those anticipating heavy travel or visas) can be obtained at no extra cost with your application. Renewals for adults range from $30 to $140.

Costs for children under 16 can range from $40 to $120.

The list of fees is available at bit.ly/1JPloeC.

You can renew a passport online, or, if you need to expedite the matter, go to the Seattle Passport Agency, the only regional office north of San Francisco.

Appointments are available 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. You’ll need an appointment; for that call 877-487-2778.

First-time applicants can use an online form wizard to autofill the form and print it out at home. You must deliver the form and sign it in person at a passport acceptance facility, such as a post office. To find a location go to bit.ly/1DxHt0V or iafdb.travel.state.gov.

If you need more information of other options for identification to fly, the Transportation Security Administration has an online list of acceptable forms for ID for airport checkpoints at bit.ly/1FPV6bx.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

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