Driver’s license bill hikes REAL ID cost — but offers small break
TRENTON — Legislation up for approval Monday that would create new driver’s licenses available to immigrants not legally in the country also raises prices for licenses that comply with REAL ID rules – as well as a small, temporary break for drivers needing to upgrade their current ones.
Right now, if a driver whose license isn’t expiring wants to upgrade to one that meets REAL ID safety standards, which will also enable them to board planes and enter federal buildings starting in October, he or she has to pay $11 for a duplicate license.
The pending bill would allow the Motor Vehicle Commission to waive that change fee, though only through Oct. 1.
“The REAL ID does in fact cost more, but we acknowledge that if you do pay for the cost of the REAL ID, that the change fee is an additional burden, especially on people who need the REAL ID because they’re going to fly before their license expires and they have to come in and change it midstream,” said Sue Fulton, the MVC’s chief administrator.
Under the bill, the cost for a REAL ID license would be set at $29. The cost for the new standard license would remain $18, which is the current license fee. For both, drivers would also have to pay an extra $6 digitized photograph fee, bringing the total costs for the licenses to $35 and $24.
Fulton said it costs more for the MVC to process REAL ID licenses, mostly because of the time it takes employees to properly vet, scan and store documents to meet federal law.
The MVC is willing to forgo the revenues associated with duplicate licenses for drivers needing an upgrade midway through their four-year licensing cycle, if it knows it can charge more for the REAL ID licenses going forward.
“We are reflecting the increased cost of the REAL ID by moving that through to the customer, rather than just having the taxpayer pick it up,” Fulton said. “We also are looking to give relief for the people who are just changing their ID. So we feel it’s probably a more just solution.”
The new licenses would grant driving privileges regardless of a person’s immigration status. They’d be available to citizens as well as noncitizens, but they will not be recognized as a valid identification for boarding a plane or entering a federal building.