BLOG: Real ID Act is Coming… Is It Finally Here?

traveler programs

After a multitude of delays, it seems like the Real ID Act is prepared to go into effect next year.

Real ID Act…A refresher.

In 2005 Congress opted to implement recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. Real ID refers to the application of a set of standards for the issuance of various sources of identification, drivers licenses being one form of identification. Different identification purposes reviewed in the Act are federal facility and nuclear power plant access along with federally regulated commercial aircraft.

The government announced a phased approach in 2013 and since then, states have been working toward compliance to the new standards. Commercial flying will have the biggest impact on traveling Americans so that is where we will focus.

One thing to note, some states issue what’s called an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington. While these types of licenses are not the same as a Real ID license, they will be an acceptable form of identification to board an airplane.  State-issued enhanced driver’s licenses are marked with a flag. These documents will be accepted at the airport security checkpoint when the REAL ID enforcement goes into effect.

Individuals may opt to still receive a standard license but will then have to provide a different, compliant form of identification such as a valid passport.

Is your state compliant?

At the time of this post, all states were in compliance.  To check on your state’s compliance, visit the TSA website here.

Checking if your current DL is Real ID compliant

If you’ve received a new drivers license in the past couple of years, you likely are compliant. Real ID drivers licenses have a star in the top right corner.

Getting a Real ID before your current DL expires

If your drivers license is due to expire prior to May 3, 2023, then you can wait until your renewal time and then obtain a compliant ID at that time. If your license isn’t set to expire until on or after May 3, 2023, and you plan to fly commercially, you will need to visit your local DMV office to get your compliant ID.

Can I renew my license online and receive a compliant ID? 

Because Real ID identification is more enhanced than a standard license, you will not be able to renew online and receive your license in the mail. You will need to physically go to your local DMV and provide all required documentation before being issued a Real ID drivers license.

Documentation for obtaining a Real ID

You will want to check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles page to verify all necessary documentation, however, it’s likely you will need to provide documents that prove your identity and date of birth, social security number, state residence and residential address. These documents may include but are not limited to; a valid passport or certified copy of your birth certificate, social security card or W-2 form, a state voter registration card, utility bill, or credit card statement. There are numerous options available to individuals to fulfill each state’s requirements, so before heading to the DMV, make sure you do your homework.

Real ID and Minor Children

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not require children under the age of 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. Therefore, you do not need to obtain a Real ID to fly commercially. A word of warning, some airlines may require you to provide proof of age to ensure the child is, in fact, a minor. Adults and minors will still need a valid passport to fly internationally.