DENVER — When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) begins to accept only “REAL IDs” in October 2020, people across the country will inevitably dig into their wallets to see if their licenses are acceptable for travel.
And when they do, most Coloradans will breathe a sigh of relief.
Only travelers with REAL-ID compliant forms of identification will be allowed through airport security nationwide once the TSA’s countdown clock hits zero. Proper IDs are marked with a star on top. In Colorado, IDs have either a black star on the newest license design, or a gold star on the old version.
More than 97% of licensed drivers already have a star, in one color or another.
“Because Colorado’s Division of Motor Vehicles was proactive in its approach to REAL ID, Colorado is in a great position,” Julie Brooks with the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) told Next with Kyle Clark by email. “We have been issuing REAL IDs for seven years, so as long as people are not using expired credentials, those renewing in 2020 already have a REAL ID-compliant credential.”
More than likely, people without the star are licensed drivers who are not U.S. citizens. They are not eligible for REAL IDs, the DOR said.
The state’s compliance rate does not take into account any newcomers who have not yet gotten a Colorado license.
“There is no way for us to know how many people live here but have not obtained a Colorado credential. We do know that a lot of states are not in the same great shape we are with regard to issuance,” Brooks said.
She added that newcomers should figure out which documents they need so that they can make the switch before the new travel policy takes effect.
Moving forward, Colorado will continue its public education efforts leading up to October, which includes telling drivers that most of them don’t need to worry about rushing to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for a new license.
“One of the biggest misperceptions we hear is that people with the old ID design are not REAL ID compliant. This is not true. We encourage people to look for the star in the upper right corner of their credential. Whether they have a new or old card design, if they have the star (gold for the old design, transparent in a black circle on the new design) they are REAL ID compliant,” Brooks said.
Colorado’s new blue and green card design, with a gray profile photo, debuted in 2016. The DMV uses a thicker card stock for these licenses than they did previously.
One viewer wrote to Next to say he’s noticed these newer licenses snapping more often, especially when he’s on the slopes and sees people with their IDs in their pockets, for example. The DMV told us they’re aware of that concern.
“Both licenses are polycarbonate, but if you have held both, you may notice the newer license is slightly thicker, likely due to the enhanced security features. This thickness may make it less able to withstand bending. That, of course, is with standard use,” Brooks said.
The DMV will replace a broken license free of charge.
Coloradans can get a digital version of their licenses on the myColorado app, which has been downloaded more than 30,000 times. But because only state agencies currently accept the digital version, skiers still have to keep their plastic cards on-hand if they want to stop for a drink, and travelers still have to use the plastic form if they want to board a plane. And you always have to use a plastic ID for any interaction with law enforcement.
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