State unveils new license designs ahead of Real ID

Minnesota Under 21 Driver License

Minnesota drivers’ licenses are getting a major makeover this summer, months before the state begins issuing the Real ID-compliant cards. And for the first time, people under 21 will get their licenses and state IDs in a vertical format.

State officials unveiled the new designs Monday.

The background snowflakes and state seal are gone. The new graphics include pine trees, a lake and canoeist. The individual license number will once again be broken up by hyphens and anti-forgery features, including laser engravings, have been added. An image of a walleye will appear when the card is held up to a light.

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Dawn Olson, director of driver and vehicle services at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said the state will begin issuing newly designed licenses and identification cards on Aug. 6. Olson said it will take four years to replace all the current licenses.

“It’s important for all Minnesotans to understand that both versions of identification are valid until they expire, or they need to be replaced,” Olson said. “Minnesotans do not need to replace their current drivers’ license or ID card unless it’s expiring, or they need to change their name or address.”

The change to new licenses come ahead of another planned change. The state is scheduled to begin issuing licenses that comply with the federal Real ID law in October.

Olson said a shrinking supply of materials used in the current licenses forced an early switch.

“We are the only state that continued to use certain materials in that card stock,” she said. “It was just a matter of that material didn’t exist anymore. So, we were at a good point where we thought now is a good time to transition in preparation for the new ID that’s coming out.”

State officials say different colored headings identify instruction permits, commercial licenses and other types of cards.

Minnesota will also continue to issue enhanced drivers’ licenses, which allow holders to re-enter the U.S. from Canada and Mexico.

Minnesota Adult Standard Driver License
Minnesota has a new design for its driver's license. Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Tony Chesak, director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, said the current markings used to identify minors on horizontal licenses can be difficult to read in low lighting.

“A vertical format is something that I’ve been wanting for quite a while," he said. "I think it’s going to be a good addition to our industry to have our servers and our owners and our managers and all the bar and restaurant staff that card people on a daily basis to be able to quickly identify and individual who is not of age.”