REAL ID: What Travelers Need to Know

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Updated November 15, 2020

I’m sure you’ve heard about it.  You’ve seen friends with that little gold star on their license or ID.  But what is Real ID?  Do you need it?  Let’s talk about it.




What is REAL ID?

The Department of Homeland Security says:

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.  These purposes are:

  • Accessing Federal facilities
  • Boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft
  • Entering nuclear power plants

I rarely need access to Federal facilities and I’m definitely not going to any nuclear power plants anytime soon.  But that “boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft?”  I do that all the time!  How else will I get to my cruises? ? 

In a nutshell, it’ll make it easier to fly.  Now, it’s not a requirement that you get it, but even if you fly from NYC to LAX, say going home for the holidays, you’ll need ID and a passport to get through security.  What a drag!

This requirement goes into effect on October 1, 2021.  On that date, Federal agencies, including TSA may only accept state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards if the card was issued by a REAL ID compliant state in accordance with the standards (that pretty gold star). 

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How Do I Get It?

Basically, all you have to do is convert your license/ID to REAL ID.  According to the DHS website, 50 states and territories are fully compliant with the REAL ID requirements and all states are on track to issuing licenses and IDs by the October 1, 2021 deadline.

Go down to your local DMV.  You’ll need to provide proof of the following:

  • Full Legal Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence
  • Lawful Status

*States may impose additional requirements, so be sure to check your state’s driver’s license agency website before you visit.

Other Facts

  • TSA does not require children under 18 to provide ID when traveling with a companion on domestic flights.
  • If you don’t have REAL ID or other acceptable forms of ID, you will not be allowed through security.
  • You can’t use your REAL ID to go to Mexico or Canada.
  • You can’t use your REAL ID for cruises. (Bummer!)
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) are designated as acceptable border-crossing documents by the Department of Homeland Security.

So, guess what?  Mom and I are gonna hop on over to the DMV and get us some REAL ID!  It’s the only thing that makes sense since we fly domestic so much.

Do you fly domestic a lot?  Are you going to get REAL ID?