EASLEY — If you don’t have a passport and you plan on boarding an airplane or entering any federal building come Oct. 1, 2020, SC DMV director Kevin Shwedo cannot stress the following enough: You need a REAL ID.
“It’s almost an oxymoron but we in South Carolina have the ‘fastest wait’ times in the country,” said Shwedo. “If you want to go to New Mexico or Arizona and sit in lines for six and a half hours, you may. It is so bad that they will actually go ahead and put in little coffee houses and free wireless internet. I would be a dead man if that were to ever happen here — although it may happen in January with the REAL ID.”
Shwedo says when he was asked to take over the DMV he was handed a copy of “the shortest law on the books.”
“It was so short, I actually memorized it,” he said. “‘South Carolina will not participate in the REAL ID Act, period.’ That’s it. If you had participated in it, they would have been sending a director to jail. In reality? (REAL ID) was going to happen — whether I liked it or not.”
There are 44 components to the REAL ID Act and S.C. has “met or exceeded” 38 of them, said Shwedo. However, don’t think that the state’s compliance with the act is going to make things simple for residents.
“What does the REAL ID law mean for you? Well, it’s probably going to cause you great pain and consternation,” he said. “You — and I want to be very clear — you will not get on an airplane.”
Shwedo said that while previously there had been talks about extra security checks and pat-downs for fliers with emergencies who had not yet obtained the proper credentials, that was no longer the case.
“These guys in D.C. don’t lie to me, but sometimes … the truth changes,” he said. “The story is right now if you do not have a REAL ID compliant license or ID card by 30 September and you have a relative who died in Idaho and you’re trying to get to the funeral, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is going to tell you too bad.”
Shwedo said circumstances like the one above will only increase the demand for the REAL IDs once they become available — which is going to make lines longer.
So, what do you need to apply for your REAL ID? Well, Shwedo says if you obtained your very first driver’s license or ID after November 2010, you’re good — the DMV already has everything they need on file to issue you a REAL ID come January.
If you got your driver’s licence or ID on Sept. 30 2010 or earlier — like most of us — you’ve got to start all over.
What does that mean?
“It means you’ve got to dig up all your old documents: your birth certificates, your Social Security cards, marriage licenses, divorce records, court ordered name changes, proofs of address — we need it all,” he said.
The bare minimum consists of an original birth certificate, Social Security card and two mailed proofs of address — physical address, not a P.O. Box, Shwedo said.
“For women, it’s even more of a pain. If your name now is not how it appears on your birth certificate — we need the documents that show why,” he said. “For every single name change: you got married and then divorced, you married again and became a widow — whatever the reason, you have to have documentation of it.”
Once people have the appropriate documents, it’s just a matter of taking them to the DMV and having them scan them into file so when the REAL IDs become available in January, you can apply and pay the fee online.
“I don’t want to see you in the DMV, I really can’t be any more truthful or blunt about this,” Shwedo said. “If you have the chance to get all your stuff done ahead of time and can just apply online for your REAL ID, do it. We’ll mail it to you.
“Don’t wait until January to get the ball rolling on this,” warned Shwedo. “Because then, like Arizona, we might have resorted to coffee shops and WiFi.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.