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ALBANY - New Yorkers without an "enhanced" driver's license, which was to be required by federal law to board even domestic flights in 2016, are getting a year's reprieve.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday that the federal government is giving New York another year to comply with the REAL ID law passed in 2005 as a tool to thwart terrorists.
Because of the decision, New Yorkers with standard driver's licenses will have another year to obtain the "enhanced" licenses, which are embedded with some passport data. That means New Yorkers with standard licenses will still be able to board flights and cruises and enter most federal buildings without the enhanced license or additional identification such as passports through 2016.
New York, Minnesota, Louisiana, New Hampshire and American Samoa were the only governments that have failed to comply with the law proposed by the 9/11 Commission after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The Cuomo administration was criticized by Senate Republicans for dragging its feet and not warning the public about the coming deadline.
"This extension guarantees that New Yorkers will be able to use their driver's licenses or ID cards as they did before," said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan after hearing from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "DMV continues to work with DHS to ensure all New York State licenses and nondriver IDs remain acceptable for REAL ID purposes."
In September, Newsday reported that the state had yet to comply with the federal law. The state DMV had cited the additional cost (an enhanced license costs $30 more than the $64.50 cost for a standard license) and the need for drivers to apply for an enhanced license in person.
The Cuomo administration had argued that they complied with the REAL ID law by providing an option for New Yorkers who wanted an enhanced license for travel.
But the feds didn't agree because the more than 800,000 enhanced licenses in New York that have been issued since 2009 are only a fraction of the more than 11.5 million active driver's licenses in the state.
Immigrant advocates had opposed the REAL ID licenses. They said more stringent federal requirements would bar some immigrants from air travel, according to dmv.org, a private-sector website that covers motor vehicle issues nationwide. The National Immigration Law Center said some immigrants lawfully residing in the United States could be grounded because some immigration statuses aren't accepted under Real ID criteria.
Additional data required for an enhanced license include proof of U.S. citizenship and a Social Security number through employment and tax records. State residency also must be proved from a list of specific records, which include bank statements and school report cards.