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Will Real ID Send You into MVA Rage?

John Lee
Some documents you can use to verify Real ID
Credit John Lee
The Motor Vehicle Administration Office on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore City.

Can You REALLY Be Seen at the MVA in 15 Minutes or Less To Verify Your Real ID? 


As the clock starts ticking, WYPR reporter John Lee takes up the challenge. 




I recently received an email from the Motor Vehicle Administration. I am one of approximately 1 million Maryland residents who need to bring documents to the MVA to get a Real ID.


The MVA promises that I will be in and out within 15 minutes — if I make an appointment. I decide to put that promise to the test.


My license looks like a Real ID — it has a star in the upper right corner. But when I got my license renewed awhile back, the MVA did not ask for the documentation the federal government now requires to go along with a Real ID. So, now I have to go back to the MVA to give them that stuff.


In the email, a link sends me to the agency’s website, where I can figure out what documents I need and to schedule an appointment. I print out a document checklist.


First up, I need something that proves I am who I say I am, like a passport or a certified birth certificate. Second, I need something that proves my Social Security number, like my original card or a W-2. 


So I open up my fireproof lockbox, the one my mother gave me. I fish out my social security card and my passport. Good to go on steps one and two.


Next, I dive into my files to find two things that prove where I live. I’m going to use my water bill from the city of Baltimore. The last one I got was in April — but that’s another story. And I have my car’s title.


I try to get an appointment at an additional office the MVA opened in Parkville that deals with nothing but this Real ID thing, but there isn’t anything immediately available at a time that works for me. So instead, I schedule an appointment at my regular old MVA office on Reisterstown Road.


When I get there, the parking lot is mostly full, but there are a few empty spaces. I grab my documents and head inside.


“Now serving I-15 at counter No. 6,” I hear as I walk in.


Let’s face it. That voice at the MVA brings dread, and you figure you are in it for the long haul. But I am able to skip the line because I made an appointment. Someone checks my documents before sending me to another room where said documents are entered into the system, and I am out the door in — wait for it — seven minutes. 


“Oh, perfect. Glad to hear it,” MVA Administrator Christine Nizer said when I told her about my experience.


But if you don’t make an appointment, you may get stuck. 


And you need to make sure your documents are what the MVA is looking for. Nizer said some residents are getting into trouble when they use their birth certificate to prove age and identity. Some try to use a document of birth from a hospital, rather than an actual birth certificate from a health department, and that won’t cut it — it needs to be certified.


“They’ve used that their entire life,” Nizer said. “They think it’s their birth certificate, but in actuality, it’s not the official document.”


The MVA has to get everyone squared away by October 2020. Nizer said about 100,000 of the roughly 1 million residents affected have successfully gotten their new Real IDs.


You can find out more, including whether you have to make that second trip to the MVA, by going to the MVA’s website http://www.mva.maryland.gov and clicking on “Real ID.” 


John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2