West Virginia Says the REAL ID Deadline is May 3, 2023 - To Fly on a Plane in the U.S. Without a Passport

Mark Hake

West Virginia's Div. of Motor Vehicles has a large clock counting down a deadline to May 3, 2023. As of Nov. 25, there are only 158 days left to get a REAL ID driver's license.

Without it, you will not be able to board a commercial plane in the U.S. without carrying a passport, passport card, or Dept. of Defense ID. In fact, you won't be able not only to board a plane, but also enter a federal building (with security - not a post office), or a military base.

Here is what the West Virginia REAL ID driver's license looks like:

WV REAL ID driver's license.Photo byWV Div. of Motor Vehicles

Note that there is s a gold circle with a white star in the upper right-hand corner. This DL design was introduced in late 2020. There is also an older version that looks like this:

Older version of REAL ID in WV.Photo byDiv. of Motor Vehicles - WV

This older version has a gold star in the upper right-hand corner. Either way, there is a star in the upper right-hand corner. That signals to the TSA and Homeland Security guards at the airport that you have a REAL ID and can proceed to board a plane (unless you have a passport, etc.).

In fact, some WV driver's licenses have a "Not for Federal ID" on them or "Not for REAL ID" on them. That won't work for getting on an airplane after May 3, 2023.

Here is exactly what the WV Div. of Motor Vehicles says about this deadline:

Federal enforcement of the REAL ID Act is set to begin on May 3, 2023. To board an aircraft or get into some federal buildings, you will need to have a REAL ID-compliant credential.

They indicate that the www.dhs.gov/real-id site shows what other IDs will be acceptable. It also has 2 videos that are worth watching about the significance of the May 3, 2023, deadline.

How To Get a REAL ID in West Virginia

West Virginia has a truly unique program for people who want to get a REAL ID and the WV Div. of Motor Vehicles. All states have a requirement that drivers must bring documents in person to a state official. But WV has a "REAL ID Headstart" program.

You can schedule a Headstart appointment online and then bring your documents at the appointment time. That will save you from waiting in a long line. However, it does cost $3.95 for this pre-enrollment service and that is before you pay the fee for the REAL ID driver's license ($10 on top of the normal renewal fee for a license).

Details on Documents Needed for a REAL ID

The documents you need to bring are the following:

Please visit any Regional Office and be sure to bring proof of identity, proof of Social Security Number, and two proofs of physical residency.
If your name has changed and is different than what is on your proof of identity document, you will need to bring name change documents as well to show the link in names.

WV is not very clear about these documents. Most other states are much clearer, as you can see in this article about Kentucky and its list of documents. By the way, all states have the same document requirements, since this is a function of the Dept. of Homeland Security's rules and the REAL ID Act of 2005.

However, WV does have a FAQ page that gets into some questions about the types of documents that are required. In addition, they do have an "Acceptable Proof Documents" page, which shows the following:

  1. Proof of Identity Documents:
  • An original or certified copy of a United States-issued birth certificate (U.S. Department of State and U.S. Military birth certificates ARE acceptable, hospital birth certificates and Bureau of Census records are NOT acceptable)
    • To obtain a birth certificate, if you were born in West Virginia, contact the Office of Vital Statistics or the County Clerk at the courthouse of the county in which you were born. If you were born in another state, the National Center for Health Statistics has information on how to obtain a birth certificate.
  • Valid, unexpired U.S. Passport or official U.S. Passport card
  • If foreign-born, valid, unexpired Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document(s) or acceptable alternatives as outlined below:
    • Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) issued by DHS (or INS)
    • Employment authorization document (EAD) issued by DHS, Form I-766 or Form I-688B
    • Certificate of Naturalization issued by DHS, Form N-550 or Form N-570
    • Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-560 or Form N-561, issued by DHS
    • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) issued by the U.S. Department of State, Form FS-240, DS-1350 or FS-545
    • Foreign passport with a valid, unexpired U.S. visa affixed accompanied by the approved I-94 form documenting the applicant’s most recent admittance into the United States.

2. Proof of Social Security Documents:

  • Social Security card
  • Original Wage and Tax Statement (W-2) or payroll stub with the applicant’s employer name and employer ID number, as well as the applicant’s name, address, and Social Security number (a photocopy of a W-2 is not acceptable) (You may use the same W-2 as one proof of WV residency, provided it is not more than 18 months old)
  • 1099 form with the applicant’s full Social Security number and name
    Please make sure your Social Security records reflect your full legal name, as reflected on your other documents. DMV must be able to establish a name connection between documents, therefore your full legal name must match your name on file with the Social Security Administration. If an applicant is not eligible for a social security number, then the applicant must submit a denial letter from the Social Security Administration. The Division checks every social security number with the SSA. If you have a problem with the SSA, such as your name or date of birth does not match with records of the DMV, and SSA then you must have the problem corrected before you can be issued a permit, license, or identification card. Your documents will be scanned and returned to you, which will provide DMV with a historical record, and provide you with additional protection, per the Federal Real ID Act of 2005. Please visit the Social Security Administration website for information about obtaining a Social Security number.

3. Proof of Legal Name Changes. DMV must be able to establish a link between any legal name changes.

  • Certified marriage certificate (for each marriage if married more than once, Souvenir documents or Minister’s copies are not acceptable)
    (If you need to obtain one, contact the county courthouse in the county and state in which you were married (click here for a WV directory)); or
  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with amended legal name
    • To obtain a birth certificate, if you were born in West Virginia, contact the Office of Vital Statistics. If you were born in another state, the National Center for Health Statistics has information on how to obtain a birth certificate.
  • Court Order with legal name/name change
  • Certified divorce decree(s) with legal name/name change
  • If you are age 50 or over, have satisfied all other documentation requirements, hold a current WV driver’s license or ID card in the name being verified, and have gone through at least one WV license renewal cycle, a signed statement may be submitted in lieu of the name change document such as the marriage certificate or divorce decree.

4. Proof of West Virginia Residency Documents

  • You will be required to provide TWO proofs of West Virginia residency.
  • Documents with a PO Box are not acceptable.
  • Any recurring document cannot be more than 60 days old (such as a utility bill or bank statement).
  • A termination notice from a utility company cannot be used as a proof of residency document.
  • You may not use more than one proof of WV residency document issued by the same company.
  • Married applicants may provide residency documents from this list in their spouse's name when accompanied with a Certified Marriage Certificate.

Here is a partial list of residency documents:

  • WV utility bills (not more than 60 days old, cannot be a termination notice, and cannot be two bills issued by the same company)
  • Tax records with a WV street address
  • WV mortgage documents, WV homeowner insurance documents for a WV residence, or proof of WV home ownership
  • WV W-2 form that is not more than 18 months old (you may use the same W-2 as your proof of Social Security number)
  • WV weapons permit
  • A valid WV vehicle registration card
  • WV Voter’s Registration card
  • See the whole list on this site.

If you are not a U.S. citizen but are in the country legally, bring all your documents proving this to the WV Div. of Motor Vehicles. They will indicate if further documentation or not is needed.

Don't Wait - Don't Procrastinate

This article should show you that it will take some time to go through the whole REAL ID process. Your best bet is to set an appointment beforehand and bring all the necessary documents to your appointment.

If you don't do this, be prepared to wait in line for a good while, especially as the May 3, 2023, deadline approaches next year. So now is actually a good time to take care of this to avoid these long lines.


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Mark R. Hake, CFA, writes articles on national and local news, stocks, and market events at InvestorPlace.com, Barchart.com, Medium.com, and Newsbreak.com as well as TalkMarkets.

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Mark Hake is a financial analyst, investor, and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). He writes about US and foreign stocks as well as cryptos, hedge funds, and private equity. He previously ran his own hedge fund, investment research firm, and acted as CFO for a fintech startup. He focuses on finding value, arbitrage, and hidden asset opportunities.

Phoenix, AZ

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