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SC DMV chief warns of hourslong waits for REAL ID procrastinators

Regular ID and Real ID

South Carolina drivers can now get a federally approved Real ID license (on the right), which has a gold emblem in the corner. File/Staff

COLUMBIA — Planning to wait until the last minute to obtain a REAL ID in person?

You might want to bring a cellphone charger along.

As an October 2020 deadline approaches for residents to acquire the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-mandated documentation, wait times could be unbearably long for procrastinators.

And none of the state DMV’s 66 branches are Wi-Fi-equipped.

“Any place I go, somebody comes up and says, ‘I’m going to get around to it,’ ” DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo said. “If you wait until January, I’m telling everybody, ‘You’ll wait as long as six hours. If you wait until next July, you may be there all day.’ ”

With only about a quarter of the state’s population signed up, or roughly 1 million residents, Shwedo said now is the time for people to get their driver’s license or identification card switched over to the documentation that will be needed to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings and military installations.

Other documentation, mainly passports and passport cards, will be considered Real ID-compliant and can also be used after the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline. Passports will still be required for international air travel.

“The good news is that we're still the fastest DMV in the country, with averaging this past month seven minutes from greeter to front desk, where other states are averaging hours. The bad news is that we're not nearly getting as many people signed up for REAL ID as we should,” Shwedo said.

Up to 700,000 people can convert to a REAL ID through the DMV’s website, as documentation for anybody receiving their first beginner’s permit, identification card or driver’s license during or after November 2010 is on file.

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As part of the state’s efforts to comply with REAL ID, expiration dates for driver’s licenses and identification cards issued on or after Nov. 25 will no longer lapse on the cardholder’s birthday, instead being based on the date the documents were issued.

That’s part of a new law that went in effect June 10.

“Prior to the changes set forth, driver’s licenses expired on people’s birthday. Because of this, there was the potential to be issued a card valid for more than eight years,” DMV spokeswoman Laura Phillips said.

Other changes are on the way, as well.

The cost of state-issued identification cards for people between the ages of 5 and 16 will jump from $10 to $15, and they’ll be valid for eight years instead of five.

Residents who are 17 years and older can receive a free ID card every eight-year cycle but will be assessed a $10 replacement fee.

Commercial driver’s licenses will be valid for eight years instead of five starting on Monday, while learner’s permits are good for a year instead of six months.

Shwedo said the revised timelines are designed to cut back on “free identification card abuse.”

“An employee recently told me she worked with a customer who needed a new state-issued ID since it was his dog's favorite chew toy. That customer had been given more than 10 IDs for free,” he said.

Earlier this month, the DMV also began processing temporary license plates differently, switching out tags affixed to newly purchased vehicles from the thin pieces of paper with expiration dates written in marker to ones with an alphanumeric code that directly ties a vehicle to its owner.

Follow Adam Benson on Twitter @AdamNewshound12.

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