Kokua Line: ‘Gold star’ ID card poses dilemma for older drivers
If your Hawaii driver’s license is valid, you can use it for driving in Hawaii, regardless of whether it has the star signifying compliance with the REAL ID Act, a federal anti-terrorism law.
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Question: Please help me settle an ongoing dispute about renewing our driver’s licenses. We are seniors 75 years old. At my age, my license now expires every two years. The state ID expires every eight years. I chose to put the gold star on my ID rather than my driver’s license, being that you can only choose one. My friend tells me that I can’t drive now because my driver’s license does not have a star. Is this true?
Answer: No, it’s not true. If your Hawaii driver’s license is valid, you can use it for driving in Hawaii, regardless of whether it has the star signifying compliance with the REAL ID Act, a federal anti-terrorism law. That law set tougher standards for state-issued identity credentials used for certain federal purposes.
The star will be necessary as of Oct. 1 for people who want to use their Hawaii driver’s license or state ID to verify their identity at U.S. airport security checkpoints. That’s because a federal agency — the Transportation Security Administration — runs those security lines.
That’s not to say that your choice is without consequences. The state will issue only one federally compliant, “gold star” REAL ID to an individual at a time. Since you now hold a compliant state ID that expires later than your current driver’s license, your options will be limited when you need a new driver’s license — unless you relinquish the state ID.
If you want to keep the state ID at that time, for a driver’s license you’ll have to choose Hawaii’s Limited Purpose Driver License, the “driving only” credential intended for people who can’t document that they’re lawfully in the United States or that they have a Social Security number. (Alternatively, you could relinquish your state ID and apply for a standard Hawaii driver’s license, with the gold star, when renewal time rolls around.)
The limited purpose license states on its face that it is “not acceptable for official federal purposes.” The credential also does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration or public benefits.
You can use it to drive in Hawaii, but the state Department of Transportation cautions that “when traveling within the U.S., individuals possessing a Hawaii limited purpose driver’s license should consult with that state’s driver licensing agency to confirm this type of driver’s license is valid for driving in that state.”
This nuance may be the source of your friend’s confusion.
Your dilemma is not uncommon among drivers 72 and older who must renew their Hawaii driver’s licenses every two years and therefore also like having a state ID, which is good for eight years.
If you had submitted your question before obtaining the state ID, we would have recommended that you get U.S. passport book or passport card instead. Those latter credentials, issued by the federal government, are accepted by the TSA as identification for domestic air travel, now and after Oct. 1. For adults, the passport and passport card are valid for 10 years from issuance. That way, you could have put the gold star on your standard Hawaii driver’s license, and still been assured of having a second, long-term ID, one that also is good for U.S. air travel.
(Note: The passport card is not good for international air travel; you need a passport book for that).
Find out how to apply for a passport by calling 1-877-487-2778 or going to travel.state.gov; once there, click on “Get a U.S. passport.” That website belongs to the U.S. State Department, indicated by the .gov address.
For more information about Hawaii’s limited purpose driver’s license, see Hawaii’s Department of Transportation website at 808ne.ws/dotlp.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.