FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentuckians should know this fall when the state’s new driver’s licenses will be available in their counties. The design of the revamped ID is scheduled to be unveiled in September.

Legislators received those updates Thursday as state officials prepare for an overhaul of driver’s licenses and other identification cards that is set to begin in January.

Matthew Cole, director of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s division of driver’s licensing, told lawmakers that the licenses with beefed-up security features, will be among “the most secure credentials in the world.”

The cabinet, which is overseeing the new licensing system, launched a public awareness campaign earlier this month and plans a statewide blitz that will include billboards, direct mail and targeted online ads before the January rollout.

Kentucky is changing its driver’s licenses as the state moves to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which requires states to make personal identification documents more secure. And there is some urgency: By October 2020, the current state driver’s license won’t be enough on its own to board a domestic flight or enter military posts.

Citizens will choose between two types of licenses, a standard driver’s license and a “voluntary travel ID” that also serves as a driver’s license. The main differences between the two are the documents needed to get them and the access they provide.

While people still will visit their local circuit clerk’s office to apply and renew, they won’t leave with their new license. Instead, it will be manufactured out of state and mailed within five to 10 days.

In many respects, the travel ID acts much like the current driver’s license. It will serve as a driver’s license and can be used to board a flight in the U.S. and get into Fort Knox and other military facilities.

The standard license will still let its holder drive and make age-controlled purchases, but it will no longer be accepted for domestic air travel. Someone with a standard license also would need a passport or other federal credential to board a plane for travel in the U.S.

Speaking at the General Assembly’s budget review subcommittee on transportation, Republican Rep. Sal Santoro of Florence said he’s concerned that Kentuckians may not understand the difference between the two licenses and opt for the standard license – only to later find out it won’t get them on a plane.

“I mean, I just see grandma getting to the Greater Cincinnati airport to travel and she has the wrong license,” he said.

One solution, Santoro said, would be for the standard licenses to read, “not for travel.”

But Cole said that won’t happen. “The language that we’re required to use on the standard credential will be ‘not for Real ID purposes’ and will be clearly shown on the license,” he told Santoro.

In an interview after the meeting, Cole said the cabinet chose to use the name “voluntary travel ID” for the document that provides all of the driving and air-travel benefits of a current driver’s license.

“We wanted to brand it and make it something that was purely Kentucky, something that would give them enough options to where they can decide which one is the best fit from them,” he said.

Cole said “the main focus of the program is that it is voluntary, it’s optional and then they get to pick which one that they want.”

Kentucky drivers with a current license can get the travel IDs starting next year, as long as they are within six months of their expiration date. But they won’t be able to “renew” as they have in the past by simply turning in their license and taking a new photo.

Instead, they’ll apply for the new credential by bringing four documents to their local circuit court clerk’s office. They are:

  • Proof of residency (one needed): U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, permanent resident card and other documents qualify
  • Proof of social security number (one needed): Non-laminated social security card or W-2 wage and tax statement from the current year
  • Proof of residency (two needed): Home utility bill, rental agreement with landlord’s signature, real estate deed, postmarked letter and other documents qualify

People applying for a standard driver’s license for the first time – such as teen drivers – must bring with them the same documents needed for the travel ID, although only one proof of residency is required.

Citizens can renew their current driver’s license to the standard license without providing additional documents. Like the process that’s now used, they’ll simply turn in their license and take a new photo.

State officials say they’ve taken steps to prevent people from getting caught without the IDs needed to travel. They are encouraging Kentuckians to start preparing the forms and cards they need now and find out when their current licenses expire.

For family emergencies or other unplanned travel, local circuit clerks will be able to issue a 30-day temporary document that will allow someone to board a flight in conjunction with a standard license not meant for air travel, according to the state.

And if someone loses a travel ID while on vacation?

Cole said the Transportation Security Administration has a screening process that would let people with lost credentials board their flight home, although it may require more time waiting at the airport.

“With proper vetting,” he told lawmakers, “people can get on a plane.”


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