With more people learning about the state’s new STAR ID program, the Alabama Department of Public Safety continues to search for efficient ways to guide people through the process of obtaining the high security identification, created after the U.S.
Congress passed the Real ID Act of 2005. As it applies to the average citizen, the act calls for heightened security measures around forms of identification that allow people into federally regulated areas, most notably, commercial airplanes.

Alabama’s new STAR ID meets federal guidelines for security.

Alabama’s new STAR ID meets federal guidelines for security.

Beginning in December 2016, any person without a Real Compliant ID or a passport will be prohibited from boarding a plane, even to travel domestically.

Each state has its own program to get their Real Compliant IDs off the ground and out into the public. In Alabama, the program is known as the STAR ID system, as compliant licenses are marked with a yellow star in the top left corner.

Robyn Bryan, a spokeswoman for the Alabama DPS, explains that each state has chosen a different route to distribute these Compliant IDs.

“Not all states are complying. Some said no, they don’t want to do this. One state even decided it would be cheaper for them to buy all citizens in the state passports than switch to the Real ID Compliant documents … In Alabama, we made it a choice.

You can get it if you feel it would be more convenient, or you can stick with the standard driver license,” Bryan said.

For many Mobilians, the STAR ID program remains a confusing mystery, if they have heard of the program at all. As the 2016 deadline approaches, Bryan says more emphasis will be put on advertising the option.

“We have been trying to promote this since September 2011. We are supposed to get some money so we can possibly do some more promotion. We’ve had posters and flyers with all the documents necessary to get the STAR ID, and we’re just trying to promote it through newspapers, radio news and TV news,” Bryan said.

To obtain a STAR ID, one must provide additional personal documents verifying their identity. The Alabama DPS website includes a list of documents required to get the star, totaling four ID documents as opposed to two forms of identification required for the standard driver license.

“A lot of people see the additional documents that it requires and go, ‘oh gosh, it’s too inconvenient, I don’t have time for that.’ But it doesn’t take that much longer,” Bryan said. “If you have the documents you need, it really doesn’t take more than another five, maybe 10 minutes.”

Having recently transferred my own out-of-state license to Alabama and opted into the STAR ID program, this reporter can verify that the time it took for the process itself could not have totaled more than 10 minutes. The wait time for that process, however, is a different story. Having arrived at the DPS office on Demetropolis Road office at 8:45 a.m., only 45 minutes after opening, I wasn’t called to a window until 1 p.m.

Some have been encouraged to arrive as early as 6 a.m., two hours prior to opening, to avoid excessive wait times. DPS officials may stop handing out numbers to people who arrive after lunchtime, as they cannot guarantee that they will be seen before closing time.

In an effort to curb the drastic wait times, the Demetropolis DPS office posted a daily schedule effective Aug. 11. Each day of the week will now be devoted to only a few types of services in an effort to focus tasks, thereby getting people through the process more efficiently. For instance, Mondays will now be devoted to written tests for various driver licenses, while those wishing to add the star to their IDs will be seen on Wednesdays.

Because the Mobile DPS location is a district office, Bryan suggests trying to visit a smaller location, as there are certain services that are required to be provided through the district offices that other locations would not necessarily have. She does remind everyone that the STAR ID cannot be granted at a probate office or license commissioner office.

For more information about the STAR ID program and how to add the star to your license, visit DPS.Alabama.gov.