Real IDs are the federal government’s way of creating minimum security standards when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses in the U.S. The deadline for getting a Real ID driver’s license has been pushed back until May 2023 but you’ll want to make sure you get one far in advance of the deadline.
You don’t want to have flights booked for a vacation or business trip, or worse, need to fly for an emergency situation, and then realize it will take some time to get a Real ID processed.
To obtain a Real ID, you’ll need to present documentation at the DMV (or other licensing agency), and it may take some time to gather all the paperwork. Once you have your new card, you’ll be able to fly freely when the compliance date arrives.
If you’re renewing your driver’s license in the next couple of years, it’s a good time to switch to a Real ID.
What Is a Real ID Driver’s License For?
With a Real ID, you will be able to board domestic airline flights, visit certain federal facilities and enter nuclear power plants. Of course, a Real ID can also be your driver’s license card.
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If you don’t have a Real ID, you will have to show a passport or other acceptable form of identification to board a plane. (The average traveler would typically not qualify for the alternatives accepted by the Travel Security Administration.)
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005. The Act is based on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations that the U.S. government set standards for issuing forms of identification such as driver’s licenses.
Car insurance companies do not require customers to have Real IDs.
What Is the Deadline for Getting a Real ID?
May 3, 2023, is the first day that Real IDs will be enforced at airports, federal facilities and nuclear power plants. Everyone age 18 and older will need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card or other accepted form of ID in order to fly on a domestic airline flight. Flashing your old driver’s license won’t do.
How Is A Real ID Different from a Driver’s License?
Real IDs are also sometimes called “star cards” because they are marked with a gold or black star in the top right corner.
They also include a scannable strip that contains your personal information, much like a passport. While many state driver’s licenses already have this feature, the key difference is the type of identification documents you must provide to get one.
Additionally, you have to bring your documentation to your state’s registry of motor vehicles in person.
It’s important to know that you don’t have to have a Real ID to drive. You can still drive with a standard driver’s license. You can’t, however, use a standard license to board flights after the May 2023 deadline.
Do I Need a Real ID for International Travel?
You will still need a passport for international travel. You can also use your passport to verify your identity at the TSA checkpoint instead of a Real ID. However, if you want to use a driver’s license to verify your identity, it must be a Real ID beginning May 3, 2023.
What About Privacy?
If the information gathered for your Real ID raises privacy concerns, you’re not alone. A few years ago some states resisted implementing the process due to fears about how personal information was being stored, but have since decided to comply.
The Department of Homeland Security states at its website that a Real ID is not a national identification card and its implementation does not result in a federal database of driver license information. Instead, the purpose is “to make our identity documents more consistent and secure.”
What Happens if You Don’t Have One After the Deadline?
If you don’t have a Real ID driver’s license or identification card or other accepted ID, you will not be permitted through security checkpoints at the airport and you won’t be able to board your flight.
How Do You Know If You Have a Real ID?
Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards have a star at the top of the card. If you are unsure about whether your card is compliant, contact the driver’s license agency in your state for assistance.
How to Get a Real ID
To get a Real ID, you must bring documents to the registry of motor vehicles that prove your age, identity, Social Security number and address. That means you likely need to present:
- Your birth certificate or passport
- Your Social Security card or tax form
- Two documents that show your address
- A marriage certificate if you changed your name when you wed
It may be challenging to find a birth certificate or marriage certificate even for the most organized person. In some states there may be certain instances when other acceptable forms of proof may be accepted, particularly for those over age 65. Check with your DMV to see if there are acceptable alternatives.
Prices for a Real ID or driver’s license vary by state. The cost could be as little as $10 or as much as $80. In general, a state’s typical fees for driver’s licenses and ID cards will apply to Real ID cards and licenses. For example, in Florida a driver’s license costs $48, a renewal license costs $48 and replacement license costs $25.
What Is an Enhanced Driver’s License?
Some states are issuing enhanced driver’s licenses (EDL) that are accepted as alternatives to Real ID cards. These states are: Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont.
You can tell state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses by the flags on the cards. These cards will be accepted at airport security checkpoints when Real ID enforcement begins on May 3, 2023.
Other Accepted IDs
If you don’t have a Real ID or a state-issued enhanced driver’s license, the Transportation Security Administration also will accept a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card. For a full list of other options, visit the TSA website.