New 'standard' Kentucky driver's license

New 'standard' Kentucky driver's license 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky plans to introduce its revamped driver’s licenses in March and have all 120 counties offering the new credentials by May.

The schedule announced Monday by state transportation officials gives residents the first glimpse into when they’ll be able to choose between two licenses or select other ID cards.

In Jefferson County, Circuit Court Clerk David Nicholson’s office expects to begin rolling out the new licenses between March 19 and March 22, although an exact date for it and the other counties will be made public several weeks earlier.  

“It’s important we maintain some flexibility right now as we continue to prepare for a massive statewide redesign of the license program,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Greg Thomas said in a statement. “Our focus is to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

People will continue to apply for the licenses at their local circuit court clerk’s office, but the IDs no longer will be quickly processed and handed over. Instead, they’ll arrive in the mail within 10 days.

Tentative rollout dates for counties in the Louisville Metro area are:

  • Bullitt County, March 19-22
  • Trimble County, March 25-29
  • Hardin County, March 25-29
  • Shelby County, April 1-5
  • Meade County, April 8-12
  • Oldham County, April 8-12
  • Spencer County. April 15-19


The move will let Kentucky meet a 2005 federal law passed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A main goal is to make credentials harder to duplicate.

After years of delay, Kentucky has made the licenses a priority in recent years because the state's current IDs will no longer be recognized in U.S. airports by fall 2020.

The state will be unveiling two different types of driver's licenses.

A “voluntary travel ID” is similar to the state’s current driver’s license, letting its holder drive, make age-limited purchases, board domestic flights and enter military posts.

A "standard driver's license" would let its holder drive, make purchases and enter federal buildings for basic services, but starting in October 2020 it won’t be accepted for air travel within the U.S. Instead, a passport or other federal ID would be needed.

State officials have defended the two-tiered system, saying it will let residents choose the credential that works best for them. Some lawmakers, however, have raised concerns  about the approach. 

Drivers will have to choose between the two. The credentials look alike, although the travel ID has a clear star on the front. The standard ID says "NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES" on its front.

The changes also will affect how Kentuckians get their credentials.

Drivers renewing their licenses in past years simply had to turn in their expiring document and get a new photograph. But under the new system, people who want a license that's good for air travel will have to bring several forms of ID with them to their local circuit court clerk’s office.

Greg Helton, the Knox County Circuit Court Clerk and president of the state clerk's association, said Kentuckians ought to begin collecting the documents they will need for the travel ID.

“Gathering, replacing and updating required documents can spare applicants from repeat trips to Circuit Court Clerk offices,” he said in a statement.

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.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825,, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

Digital Reporter

Marcus Green joined WDRB News in 2013 after 12 years as a staff writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He reports on transportation, development and local and state government.