The Real ID countdown is underway in earnest.

In less than eight months, starting Oct. 1, if you want to use your driver’s license to get on a commercial flight or into a federal building in the United States, you will need a federally approved Real ID license.

In response, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is dramatically expanding opportunities for Garden State residents to get Real ID driver’s license — which until now have been only available on an appointment basis, with a wait.

“If your license is expiring any time in the next three months we’re going to allow you to come in on a walk-in basis without an appointment and get your Real ID," MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said. The change goes into effect Wednesday.

If your driver’s license is not expiring in the next three months, you will still need to go online and make an appointment first.

And there are some caveats.

“We’re only going to do this from the 5th to the 20th of every month, because too many people wait until the last minute, so the end of the month and the beginning of the month are very tough times for us," Fulton said.

The REAL IDs will still only be available from certain MVC offices.

Fulton stressed if you want to get a Real ID license you are strongly advised to visit a participating MVC office as soon as possible.

“It’s going to get crazy during the summer and early fall," she said. "If your driver’s license is expiring bring all your documents and get your Real ID on a walk-in basis. Come in the middle of the month when it’s not crowded.”

She said there's no avoiding the fact that many people will wait until the last minute, and "it's going to be very, very crowded.”

She said New Jersey's Real ID program was rolled out last September with an appointment-only system to give MVC employees the chance to get familiar with it, so members of the public would not “wind up waiting on line for six, seven or eight hours like in other states.”

She said the new walk-in program is being launched now because many new MVC employees have been hired, and the commission is at a point where many more Real ID licenses can be produced.

Thirty-two out of 39 MVC offices are participating in the walk-in program, Fulton said. The remaining seven offices will soon, she said.

“We want people to understand it’s going to get very crowded in our agencies," Fulton said. "We know that’s going to happen and we’re trying to make every opportunity available to sign up now.”

New Jersey's REAL ID site also provides specific documentation requirements for Real ID.

More than 200,000 New Jerseyans have signed up for Real ID since the program began in Mid September of last year.

Fulton said about 15,000 licenses have been issued so far. She said production continues to increase and “we expect in February several thousand Real ID licenses a week will be issued.”

Fulton said whether you’re going to walk in for a Real ID or make an appointment, don’t forget to review the documentation requirements — which include two proofs of address, one proof of a Social Security number plus the state's usual six points of ID.

“I think we’re all worried that too many people are going to wait until July, August, September and it’s just going to be crazy," Fulton said. If you can get in there now we absolutely recommend it.”

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