The new Kansas driver’s license features upgraded security elements and complies with national identification requirements to be implemented in 2020 for individuals entering federal facilities or boarding domestic flights, state officials said this week.
Sam Williams, secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue, said changes reflect mandates of the Real ID law approved by Congress more than a decade ago. The state began introduction of the new license Tuesday, and the first modified cards are expected to reach Kansans within 10 days.
“We are starting to issue these new forms of ID three years ahead of when it’s required,” he said. “It is important that we’re out in front of this with our Kansas consumers. There’s no need to rush in for a new ID, but it’s something the public needs to be aware of.”
The state would normally replace approximately 2.5 million licenses in Kansas over a six-year period. Half of those individuals are expected to secure the new license under the normal renewal schedule by the federal deadline of Oct. 1, 2020.
That means more than 1 million Kansans will have to voluntarily apply for the new license during the phase-in period to be compliant, Williams said. If acquiring one of the new licenses outside the typical replacement time frame, the recipient will be charged the $8 replacement fee by the state.
“After Sept. 30 of 2020, you can't board an airplane or enter a federal government building without it. You will have a valid driver's license, but will not be able to do those things,” said Becky Opland, Harvey County Treasurer.
The upgraded license reflecting a person’s lawful presence in the United States will contain a gold circle with a star cutout in the corner. That status can be demonstrated by presenting to the state documentation of a Social Security number in addition to a valid passport or birth certificate, said Lisa Kaspar, director of the state’s license bureau in the revenue department.
Opland said she is concerned that the new license and its requirements will lead to confusion for consumers at local driver's license offices.
“For every office in Kansas, people will be angry because they are not aware and there was no publicity about it to warn people. People will go in to renew a driver's license, and they will not have the proper documentation. You don't carry your social security and birth certificate with you,” Opland said.
She said an estimated 600,000 Kansans presented these key forms of identification to the driver’s license bureau for scanning and storage in a database since 2011.
“If someone previously provided that documentation, and we have a record of that, they wouldn’t need to bring it in again,” Kaspar said.
Obtaining a Real ID license in Kansas isn’t required by federal or state law and persons who choose not to present state officials with appropriate proof of identity can receive a license or official ID printed with text on the front declaring, “not for federal ID.” These people would be required to use a passport to board federally regulated commercial aircraft following the deadline.
In addition, the state revenue department said individuals with a valid visa, permanent resident card or employment authorization card, if lawfully in the United States, can secure a Real-ID driver’s license.
Kaspar said the new Kansas license contained revised security features to combat identity fraud, including laser engraving, iridescent overlay and ultraviolet imagery.
Decorative artwork on the licenses was altered to include depictions of four stages in the evolution of Kansas, Kaspar said.
“It has pre-European arrival, westward expansion, breadbasket of the world and the bright future of Kansas,” she said. “If you look closely, you can see the buffalo and the tee-pees and on to the bright future.”
In June, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation intended to bring Missouri into compliance with the Real ID Act following public criticism the federal law intruded on privacy of individuals in that state.
Just as in Kansas, the new Missouri law will provide motorists the option of acquiring a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or a license that didn’t meet the federal regulation. It could take Missouri officials up to two years to catch up with the licensing system in operation in Kansas.
— Chad Frey, Newton Kansan, contributed to this story