By Samantha Lyles
Does your South Carolina driver’s license or state-issued ID card have a gold star on it? If not, you may need to visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) branch soon and purchase a REAL ID.
Since Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005, all 50 states have instituted new requirements to standardize government-issued identification methods.
As of October 1, 2020, your South Carolina driver’s license or identification card must sport that gold star – proof that it’s a REAL ID – or it won’t suffice as identification when boarding a domestic airline flight, going into secure federal buildings or nuclear power facilities (like the H.B. Robinson plant), or visiting military installations.
If you don’t anticipate needing to do any of those things, you don’t need a REAL ID.
Also, if you have a valid U.S. passport, that will continue to serve as adequate identification when traveling. But, according to the State Department, only 42 percent of Americans hold valid passports, meaning that many people use their driver’s license as the primary form of identification when boarding commercial airline flights.
At last check, some 3 million South Carolinians had yet to update to Real ID, and with the deadline looming, officials have advised residents to deal with this requirement as soon as possible.
“We’ve reached a critical point in our implementation of REAL ID as a state,” said SCDMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo. “Unless you have a valid US passport or military ID, now is the time to purchase your REAL ID at scdmvonline.com or in one of our branches to avoid long lines or future disruptions in your travel plans. To think that lines won’t reach four to six hours in South Carolina is a myth, and we’re urging you to prove us wrong by preparing now.”
Some residents may be eligible to switch to REAL ID without leaving their homes. SCDMV has been mailing REAL ID applications to about 500,000 customers since October of 2019, and will continue this mail-order option for the next two months. If you receive such a notice, you can renew your license and upgrade to REAL ID online.
“When you buy your REAL ID license online, the SCDMV will use your current photograph and signature on file with the agency and mail your new license in about five to ten business days after placing the order,” explained Deputy Director of the Contact Center Melissa Cisson, who oversees the online ordering process.
If you don’t receive a mail notification, you may need to bring additional identification to the SCDMV office in order to update to a REAL ID. For those who already possess a valid South Carolina driver’s license, updating to a REAL ID is considered renewing your license, and it will be valid for no more than 8 years.
To issue you a REAL ID, the SCDMV needs all of the following documents: proof of identity (a government-issued birth certificate or valid US Passport), proof of Social Security number, two proofs of current, physical S.C. address, and proof of any legal name changes. Only original versions of these documents will be accepted. Copied or scanned versions will not suffice.
For more information on REAL ID, or to find out if you can renew and update online, visit www.scdmvonline.com. Here in Darlington County, the local office of the SCDMV is at 2200 East Bobo Newsome Highway, and they are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday from 9:30 am to 5 pm.