If you plan on using any American airport after September of 2020, you’ll need a REAL ID to do so. Beginning October 1, 2020,
passengers without a valid REAL ID will not clear TSA screening areas in airports.
The requirements for the REAL ID were passed by Congress in 2005 as a post-9/11 measure to make our air travel safer.
Fifteen years later, those requirements will finally be enforced.
Although it took more than a decade to implement nationwide requirements for the REAL ID, other improvements,
such as TSA pre-check, have already been made for safer air travel. In fact, some people are arguing that those programs made
air travel even more secure than the REAL ID ever could. The U.S. Travel Association has been talking with federal authorities to try
to get them to consider membership in those programs to stand as a substitute for having a REAL ID. But even if you’re a member
in one of those programs, get a REAL ID as soon as you can in case federal authorities decide membership alone is not enough.
Check to See Whether Your ID Is Compliant
To see if your driver’s license is a REAL ID, check the upper right-hand corner. If there’s a star or a symbol incorporating a star,
you have a REAL ID.
Some states have been issuing driver’s licenses that are compliant with REAL ID standards for years, but a few states have yet
to issue driver’s licenses and state ID cards that comply with the REAL ID regulations. Check to see if your state is
compliant; as of November 2019, 47 states are compliant. But even if your state is compliant, not all states make people
get a REAL ID license (Illinois, for example, lets residents choose between a regular driver’s license and a REAL ID license),
so don’t assume that your license is a REAL ID just because your state is compliant.
Figure 1: “Illinois state issued REAL ID.” REAL ID, Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, realid.ilsos.gov/.
What About Kids?
Children under 18 are exempt from the REAL ID rules. Adults traveling with them, however, will need a valid form of ID.
Get Ready for Some Delays
Despite efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to get the word out about the REAL ID, only 27% of Americans
have a REAL ID, and studies show that only 57% of Americans are aware there’s a deadline looming to get one.
If nothing changes, there will be long delays at airports as passengers discover their driver’s licenses don’t
meet the requirements to board a plane.
So if you’re planning on flying in October of 2020, right after the requirement for the REAL ID goes into effect,
plan on giving yourself extra time to get through security because you’re going to need it.
What Do I Need for a Real ID?
You’ll need to prove your identity, date of birth, and either US citizenship or lawful status. You’ll also need proof
of your Social Security Number. Most states will also require you to prove that you live where you say you live.
So long as your name matches across all documents you use, getting a REAL ID involves no more hassle than the usual
hassle of going to your local DMV.
What Else is a REAL ID?
If you don’t have a US driver’s license that’s compliant with the REAL ID standards, a US passport or US passport card,
or a passport issued by a foreign government will also be accepted. As of November 2019, these other forms of ID are
being accepted and may not be impacted by the REAL ID requirement:
- Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- DHS trusted traveler card (FAST, Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI)
- US Department of Defense ID (this includes IDs issued to dependents)
- Permanent resident card
- Border crossing card
- State-Issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- Federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID
- HSPD-12 PIV card
- Transportation worker identification credential
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
- US Merchant Mariner Credential
If you have questions about the REAL ID visit the
Department of Homeland Security FAQ to learn more.