Carver County Sheriff's Office

As many of you know, from news stories or having experienced it yourself already, Minnesota is undergoing a change with its driver's licenses (DLs). Two new choices in licenses have been introduced — Real ID and Enhanced — and some confusion has occurred about which type might be the best for you. In fact, it might be neither one.

First, a quick explanation of the main reason behind the changes. In 2005, Congress passed the “Real ID Act,” which was born out of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations that the Federal Government set nationwide standards of identification.

In short, the act established minimum security standards that all states must meet in issuing DLs and ID cards. Federal agencies/officials are prohibited from accepting non-Real ID compliant forms of identification starting on Oct. 1, 2020. The standard DL as you know it, will still be issued, but will not be acceptable for Real ID compliance situations after Oct. 1, 2020.

About six months ago, Minnesota began to issue Real ID compliant DLs. Currently, Minnesotans have three choices when obtaining or renewing their DL: the standard DL, Real ID, or Enhanced.

So, the million dollar question becomes, “Which one do I need?” To best answer that, you primarily need to ask yourself, “Where do I plan to go or visit after Oct. 1, 2020?” Simply put, if your travel plans involve domestic flights, U.S. land/sea border crossings, or federally operated facilities like military bases, you must obtain a Real ID compliant DL.

Following is a brief summary of each type of Minnesota DL, which will hopefully assist you in selecting the best for your needs.

Standard DL

  • Not Real ID compliant.
  • Can still be used for entering federal facilities only until Oct. 1, 2020.
  • Can still be used for domestic air travel only until Oct. 1, 2020.
  • Not acceptable for U.S. border crossing by itself now or after Oct. 1, 2020.
  • Bottom line: After Oct. 1, 2020, by itself, will allow you to continue driving legally, but will be unacceptable for the above uses.

Real ID DL

  • Can be used for domestic air travel and federal facility purposes by itself, now and after Oct. 1, 2020.
  • Can not be used for U.S. border crossing by itself. A passport is still needed with this DL.
  • Issued to both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens.

Enhanced DL

  • Can be used for domestic air travel and federal facility purposes by itself, now and after Oct. 1, 2020.
  • Can be used for U.S. border crossing (land and sea only, not air) by itself, in lieu of a passport.
  • Issued to U.S. citizens only.

Regarding the Enhanced DL, think of them as an upgraded Real ID DL. Enhanced DLs have the added ability to cross U.S. land and sea borders (Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries). By the way, Minnesota is one of only five states offering them. Enhanced DLs contain a radio frequency identification chip that assist in providing Customs & Border Protection sites the ability to pull up your biographic/biometric data by a CBP agent as you approach border inspection booths. Ninety-five percent of land border crossings possess this technology.

Finally, here are some key points to remember. Passports will continue to be used in the same manner as always. They remain, now and after Oct. 1, 2020, as the only means of completing international air travel. Again, for domestic air travel, you only will need one valid form of identification after Oct. 1, 2020 — either of the two Real IDs, or your passport. Children under the age of 18 are not subject to the new domestic travel requirements, as long as their over-18 travel companion meets the new requirements.

Also, when applying for Real ID and Enhanced DLs, the following three types of documentation are required:

  1. Proof of identity, birth date, and legal presence in the U.S., such as a valid passport, birth certificate, or certificate of citizenship.
  2. Proof of social security number.
  3. Proof of Minnesota residency, such as current DL, current bank statement, or current home utility bill.

Your application will be rejected if you don’t have these three items with you. There is a nice online DVS pre-application process available through the website listed below that will save you significant time at the DMV office.

According to the local DMV office, Real ID DLs are taking from 2-2-1/2 months to be mailed, whereas Enhanced DLs are taking from 3 to 3-1/2 months for delivery. As such, the DMV is encouraging people to plan far ahead. The temporary one issued until your permanent one is mailed will satisfy Real ID compliance, but you must have your old DL with.

For more complete information, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has a great website, which is easy to navigate and that can answer many questions on this topic. Its website is For more information on the Real ID Act, and meeting compliance, the Department of Homeland Security website will also answer nearly all of your questions. Its website is

I used both as sources for this article. A handy online chart comparing Real ID, Enhanced, and Standard DLs, along with passports, is at

As always, one can call or visit your local DMV. The Chanhassen Service Center is at 7808 Kerber Blvd. and can be reached at 952-361-3900. The Chaska License Center is at 418 Pine St. N. and can be reached at 952-361-1900.

Steve Dascher is a Carver County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.


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