Puerto Rico Residents May Now Request a REAL ID
SAN JUAN – Transportation & Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish initials) Secretary Miguel Torres announced Sunday that the REAL ID format for driver’s licenses and identification cards may be requested beginning Monday. The federal government had extended the period for Puerto Rico to comply with the regulations of the REAL ID Act until Oct. 10.
Passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.
The IDs with the new format may be optionally turned into a valid document, or REAL ID, for travel to the U.S. mainland for $15, in addition to the $11 currently charged to obtain the identification.
At the beginning of the year, Torres said the implementation of the new ID was stopped because of difficulties with the information technology infrastructure at DTOP, but assured his department would comply with the act by the end of the first quarter, before the October deadline.
Would-be travelers had expressed concern after media reported the Transportation Security Administration would not be accepting Puerto Rico driver’s licenses as a valid ID for those traveling abroad from Jan. 10 on. Later, Homeland Security officials informed it was evaluating an application for an extension from the Puerto Rico government. Therefore, Puerto Ricans could continue using their licenses as valid IDs when traveling abroad.
The secretary said Homeland Security extended the deadline because of “good communication” and the Puerto Rican government’s record of compliance with previous deadlines.
“DTOP meets the requirements established by the Department of Homeland Security related to the implementation of the REAL ID format, which comes into effect Oct. 1, 2020,” the official said at a press conference Sunday in Carolina’s Drivers Service Center (Cesco by its Spanish acronym), one of the participants of the project’s pilot phase. The other participants will be the Cescos in Guayama, Ponce, Arecibo, Humacao and Aguadilla.
“This does not mean all Puerto Ricans should run out and get the license or REAL ID. What this means is you have the option to apply for a license or a REAL ID, which will become an official document accepted by security at airports when traveling between the United States and Puerto Rico,” Torres said.
The REAL ID licenses and identifications feature a star on their upper right corner, and those that aren’t REAL IDs read, “Not for REAL ID purposes,” while licenses for people with an unofficial immigration status read, “Not acceptable for federal purposes.”
The current driver’s license is valid until October 2020, by which time all residents should have the new format. For now, requesting a REAL ID is optional.
Among the documents required when when applying for the ID are medical and birth certificates; Social Security card or W-2; a water, power, telephone or cellphone bill; and official Cesco forms.