Chamber breakfast

Matthew Henderson, commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation within the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, speaks with Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday about the state's move toward compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. Residents will soon have an option between standard ID and a voluntary travel ID.

MURRAY — Some big changes are coming to Kentucky driver’s licenses in the next few months, and the commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Vehicle Regulation spoke to local business leaders Tuesday about what that would entail.

DVR Commissioner Matthew Henderson, whose department is within the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, was the featured speaker at the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce’s Business@Breakfast event. The tall 37-year-old said he has been in his post about a year, and he got a few laughs as he opened his presentation by joking about his age.

“What I’m here today to talk to you about is our new state credentials,” Henderson said. “This is pretty exciting, and it’s an initiative that my department is rolling out. I am the commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation. I was appointed commissioner just about a year ago. 

“I love being commissioner. I make my parents call me ‘commissioner’ whenever I’m around them. It’s very fun. I like hearing my dad say that; it’s cool. A typical day for me is I walk into a meeting with other folks in Frankfort and I just kind of awkwardly stand there and someone will be like, ‘Uh … where’s the commissioner at?’ ‘Well, that’s me.’”

Henderson said he is passionate about travel and transportation infrastructure, which brought him to the topic at hand. Starting in October 2020, standard licenses will no longer meet federal REAL ID Act requirements for Kentuckians to board U.S. domestic flights or enter select federal facilities, he said. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission learned that the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania all used state-issued credentials to board the planes. To improve airport security, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to prevent the fraudulent use and reproduction of licenses and IDs, Henderson said.

While creating new credentials that will meet the federal regulations, Kentucky has asked for several extensions from the Department of Homeland Security. The extensions have allowed federal agencies to continue accepting current Kentucky licenses, permits and IDs over the last few years for air travel or entry into military bases or restricted federal facilities such as the White House and nuclear power plants. Henderson said Kentucky is one of 20 states still implementing REAL ID, and its final extension is set to expire Oct. 1, 2020.

Citizens will have a choice between standard licenses or voluntary travel IDs, but if you plan on entering military bases, restricted federal facilities or boarding an airplane, voluntary travel IDs are the only driver’s licenses that will be accepted beginning October 2020, Henderson said. Standard credentials, which will be cheaper to purchase, will still be accepted for voting, age-restricted purchases and accessing federal and social benefit services.

Henderson said a phased, statewide rollout of the new credentials will start in March 2019 and will end by May. Three big changes will come with the new system: including mailed delivery, an optional lifespan and upgraded security. Henderson said the mailed delivery is necessary because licenses will now be produced in a central, secure location, as opposed to circuit court clerks’ offices. Henderson said credentials are currently produced over the counter at more than 140 locations in the state, so making them at one location will help reduce the risk of fraud.

After applying at your local clerk’s office, you will leave with a temporary document that is an altered version of your current credential and will be valid for 30 days. Your permanent card will arrive in the mail 5 to 10 business days later, Henderson said.

Henderson talked about some of the new security features. Photos will now be in black-and-white because the grayscale photo displays defined facial features that are detectable by facial recognition software. He said the background ink color and images are harder to reproduce, and the licenses will also feature laser engraving on a higher-quality more durable card than is currently the standard in Kentucky.

Talking about the optional lifespan, Henderson said that for the first four years of issuance, non-commercially licensed drivers may choose a credential that will be valid for either four or eight years. Starting in early 2023, all applicants will receive an eight-year credential, he said.

First time applicants will need the following:

• Proof of identification, such as an original or certified birth certificate, a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card.

• Proof of Social Security number, such as a non-limited Social Security card or a W-2 form.

• Proof of residency, which could include a utility bill, lease, pay slip or voter registration card.

To make things easier on applicants, the state is encouraging residents to visit to view the IDocument Guide, which is an online interactive tool to help people determine what proof documents they should gather before the statewide rollout begins in March.

Henderson noted that if your current legal name, date of birth or gender is different from what is displayed on your identity or lawful status document, you must show legal proof of the changes, such as a marriage license or other documents. A full list of acceptable proof documents is also available at

A new eight-year voluntary travel ID license will be $48, while a new eight-year standard driver’s license will be $43, Henderson said. Four-year credentials are half the cost of an eight-year credential, Henderson said.

Kentucky is rolling out the changes county by county, and Henderson said Calloway County is expected to implement real ID between April 8 and April 12. Calloway Circuit Clerk Linda Avery will keep the public updated on the timeline, he said. 

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