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Other Opinion: Time starts to fly on Real ID

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The clock is ticking. We're now down to less than a year for Minnesotans to get a Real ID driver's license if they wish to travel by air after Oct. 1, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will require the cards for commercial airline flights after that date. Most states have already complied. Minnesota, usually a leader in most categories, was a slacker when it came to Real ID, primarily because legislators in St. Paul got into silly arguments about trying to attach immigration issues to the bill.

The delay was further complicated by the fiasco that was the MNLARS state licensing computer system, which has since been replaced.

As a result of all this, Minnesotans are staring at a rapidly approaching deadline to obtain Real ID cards.

Here's the basic issue: Unless you have a Real ID-compliant card, you will not be able to board domestic airline flights -- although a valid U.S. passport will suffice.

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But you can't just show up at your local license-issuing counter at the courthouse and request a REAL ID license. You will need:

-- one document that proves your identity, such as a valid passport or birth certificate

-- a document proving your Social Security number, such as a Social Security card (not laminated) or a W-2 form

-- two documents proving that you are a resident of Minnesota, such as a driver's license, credit card statement, bank statement or utility bill.

That's not a particularly onerous list, although it might take some time to get those documents together. That's why it is advisable to get an early start.

Processing will also take longer than your standard driver's license renewal. There is simply more involved in checking the validity of submitted documents. In recent months, Minnesotans have been waiting more than a few weeks to receive their cards, but state officials say their target wait time is 20 days.

By the way, if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground rather than flying, Real ID is not needed to board trains or buses. It is also not needed for driving, registering to vote, and applying for federal benefits.

Keep in mind, though, that even if you're driving to Canada for that annual fishing trip, you'll need a passport or a passport card to cross the border.

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