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Massachusetts is offering a free REAL ID upgrade to residents who renew their license online this summer

"We are anxiously trying to get as many people as we can to renew online."

Sample of a Massachusetts Real ID license from the RMV website. File

More than a half-million Massachusetts residents need to renew their license this summer, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

And if they do it online, the agency is offering a free REAL ID upgrade next year.

The deadline to upgrade to REAL ID, the new federally standardized form of driver’s license, had originally been set for this October. After that, standard licenses would no longer be accepted as identification to board a plane or enter a federal building; those who didn’t upgrade to REAL ID would need to carry their passport.

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government pushed that deadline back to Oct. 1, 2021.

But that hasn’t changed the fact that many resident have a driver’s license that is set to expire in the coming months — or already has.

So officials at the RMV — which switched to an appointment-only system at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in March — are hoping to use the promise of a free REAL upgrade to avoid any potential crowding at their branches.

The offer is available to eligible customers who have an expired or expiring license or ID card dated between March 2020 and August 2021, according to the RMV. If they renew online by Aug. 12, they will be able to upgrade to REAL ID for free at some point after February 2021. While residents will still have to pay the initial $50 renewal fee, they won’t be charged the extra $25 for eventually getting a REAL ID card, which requires an in-person visit.

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“They can come in next year, or beyond, and upgrade to the REAL ID whenever they need it for free,” Jamey Tesler, the RMV’s registrar, said during a state Department of Transportation meeting Monday.

“We are anxiously trying to get as many people as we can to renew online,” Tesler said. “This will avoid the need for an in-person visit, support all of our efforts to maintain social distancing, and allow our appointments to be used for other customers who have other more-pressing needs.”

The RMV has also extended the deadlines for driver’s license renewals in the midst of the pandemic.

  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that expired in ​March, April, and May 2020 ​will now expire in ​September 2020.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that expired or will expire in ​June​ have been extended until ​October 2020.
  • ​Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in ​July​ have been extended until ​November 2020.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in ​August​ have been extended until December 2020.

Still, in order to get the free REAL ID upgrade, the deadline to renew online is Aug. 12. Residents are encouraged to do so by visiting www.Mass.Gov/RMV.

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