BOSTON – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has signed bipartisan legislation to ensure Massachusetts’ compliance with the federal REAL ID Act, while adopting public safety standards so the Commonwealth’s citizens can continue to enter federal buildings and board domestic flights and ensuring that state credentials are issued to residents and those who are lawfully present in the United States.
The Registry of Motor Vehicle will continue to update customers throughout its compliance efforts and anticipates REAL ID compliant cards will begin to be issued in the fall of 2017.
“I thank the members of the Legislature for their attention to the Commonwealth’s compliance with federal REAL ID security standards and ensuring that all applicants must show proof of lawful presence in order to obtain any Massachusetts credential,” said Gov. Baker in a statement. “The security standards and proper federal documentation requirements set out in this bill are imperative as the Registry begins the gradual process of implementation so credential holders may continue to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings in the coming years.”
Governor Baker first filed REAL ID compliance legislation in October of 2015, with the Legislature ultimately adopting the Governor’s bipartisan amendment to make explicit that both a REAL ID-compliant license and a Massachusetts license will only be issued to individuals with proof of lawful presence, ensuring undocumented immigrants do not obtain either type of license under the new system.
The REAL ID Act, the result of work by the 9/11 Commission, sets minimum standards that states must meet during the issuance and manufacture of driver’s licenses and Massachusetts resident identification cards.
Only a REAL ID carries certain benefits such as serving as a valid form of identification to enter federal facilities and, once enforcement begins, the ability to board domestic flights.
“A driver’s license is one of the most important forms of identification in our society, and it must have accuracy and integrity. That’s why it’s imperative that our state comply with the REAL ID Act as soon as possible, and without taking any chances that a license could be given to someone not legally in our state,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester), in a press release.
“The legislation Governor Baker has signed into law is an important clarification that eliminates any doubt as to who actually qualifies for a driver’s license,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “By explicitly prohibiting the issuance of a driver’s license to individuals who do not have lawful presence in the United States, we are not only upholding the security and integrity of our licensing system, but also moving Massachusetts into full compliance with the federal Real ID Act.”
Massachusetts credential holders currently are not subject to enforcement rules set by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because the Commonwealth has a valid compliance extension, as do approximately half of the states in the country. At least 23 other states are already issuing REAL ID compliant credentials.