Progress has been made, but June will have come and gone before New Jersey drivers in the general public have access to a Real ID, MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said Thursday.

The newer driver's licenses have been in "beta-testing for several weeks" at the facility within MVC headquarters in Trenton, Fulton said.

She also said that the commission began issuing Real IDs to internal volunteers among MVC employees willing to pay the standard license change fee as a way of ensuring the operating system runs smoothly and that staff members are trained.

New Jersey is one of several states still implementing federal Real ID under a 2005 law that requires new security standards for driver’s licenses as acceptable proof of identification for federal facilities and commercial aircraft.

Getting a Real ID license remains optional, Fulton said. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, you must have a Real ID compliant driver license/ID to fly within the United States, unless you use a U.S. passport or another federally approved form of identification.

A Real ID website tool document selector, with examples of what will count toward identity verification, will be up "within the next couple of weeks" Fulton said.

Processing a Real ID takes extra time to process because every ID document presented by a driver needs to be scanned into the MVC system.

Instead of just the "six points of ID" that drivers present for a standard license, the Real ID has a more stringent set of requirements, including two proofs of residence, one proof of social security number and then six points of identification. The final category will hold different levels of qualifying documents than those for a standard ID.

As other states have rolled out their Real ID process, their respective DMVs have seen a lot of confusion around names and challenges in matching documents with a driver's legal name, Fulton said.

She also said New Jersey drivers who know they will want to apply for a Real ID will be well served if the full name on their Social Security card matches the full name on their primary document, whether that's a passport or birth certificate.

Upgrades to the statewide MVC system before issuing Real IDs include:

  • Replacing every server in each of the MVC's 39 locations over the past three months
  • New online transactions, like renewing/replacing a standard driver's license, replacing a lost registration for eligible drivers
  • New driver testing software installed
  • A new point-of-sale system would be installed "soon"

Standard New Jersey driver's licenses still can be used for driving.

“There will be no up-charge for Real ID, though it costs the agency more to issue than a standard ID or license. However, if your license is not expiring and you wish to change to a Real ID, you will be charged the standard change fee of $11,” an MVC spokesman previously said.

The other states to implement Real IDs, Pennsylvania, Maine and South Carolina, had filed initial objections based on privacy concerns.

Pennsylvania just began issuing the IDs in the spring and has been dealing with confusion and frustration over which documents can be used as ID verification, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist.

South Carolina began issuing the optional Real IDs in 2018, and Maine has an extended deadline until October, the same deadline as New Jersey.

Among organizations that raised concerns over the Real ID Act, the ACLU said, "While it is ostensibly aimed at improving driver’s license security, its actual effect is to turn those same licenses into national ID cards by stipulating that state driver’s licenses and state ID cards will not be accepted for “federal purposes”—including boarding an aircraft or entering a federal facility—unless they meet all of the law’s numerous conditions."