By Paula Sollami Covello
As County Clerk, I oversee over two of Mercer County’s busiest passport offices in Trenton and Hamilton Township. Consequently, I receive many inquiries as to whether new Federal ID laws will require New Jersey residents to obtain passports to fly domestically in order to meet Homeland Security requirements. I am pleased to advise that the standard New Jersey Driver’s license remains sufficient to allow NJ travelers go through security without a passport until 2023. However, this is simply an extension. All New Jersey residents will need an updated driver license that complies with the Federal Department of Homeland Security REAL ID standards, or a passport or military ID, to travel domestically as of May 3, 2023.
The Real ID complies with federal standards that impose stronger requirements to prove US residency and it requires more than nine points on a driver’s license. It is intended to reduce identify theft, fraud, and enhance the nation’s security.
The good news is that a U.S. Passport book and the less expensive passport card both are REAL ID and remain an acceptable form of identification for domestic travel. Better news yet, the Mercer County Clerk’s Office can assist you in obtaining a passport book or passport card.
Both the County Clerk’s Office in Trenton and the County Connection in Hamilton are open and requiring appointments at the present time for passport services. However, please don’t wait to make your appointment because passport processing is taking 12 weeks or longer due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, we recommend you apply for a passport or renewal far in advance of your planned travel, with five or six months lead time.
While the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission has begun the transition to Real IDs, it is a massive undertaking and was set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing the delays for the State MVC, the Division of Homeland Security granted an extension for the MVC to comply with the REAL ID Act. In the meantime, you are REAL ID compliant if you have a U.S. Passport or Passport card. There is no need to stress.
For more information about passport services and hours, please visit the County Clerk’s website: http://www.mercercounty.org/government/county-clerk-/office-services/passports.
Lastly, please know that our office also offers Veterans ID cards which are FREE four times each year. While these ID cards do not meet Federal standards for REAL ID, they do identify Veterans of Mercer County making them eligible for certain discounts in recognition for their service. Some upcoming weeks for free veteran ID’s are scheduled from May 24 through June 4, in recognition of Memorial Day, and from June 28 through July 9, surrounding Independence Day. We also offer free ID’s the weeks of Veterans’ Day and Pearl Harbor Day, in honor of those who have nobly served our country.
To obtain a Vet ID, please make an appointment with our office by calling 609-278-7108 or by visiting our website www.mercercounty.org/government/county-clerk and click on “Make an Appointment.” For Veteran ID cards, you must bring your original DD-214 form and proof of Mercer County residency to our Trenton office.
Our Trenton Office is located at 209 South Broad Street, Trenton, NJ, while the Hamilton location is in the Mercer County Connection on Route 33.
If you have any additional questions about passports, or the different forms of IDs we offer, please contact us at (609) 989- 6465.
For more Real ID information, you can visit this website, https://www.dhs.gov/real-id/real-id-faqs