While non-essential travel is on hold for the most part, we have all experienced presenting a driver’s license or other identification at airport security checkpoints. And frequent fliers know that REAL ID approved identification will eventually be needed to fly domestically. To allow travelers and states a chance to comply, the deadline for implementing the new REAL ID policy has been extended one year, to Oct. 1, 2021, due to the coronavirus crisis.
But eventually, every air traveler age 18 or older must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of identification to fly within the United States. Even if you have TSA PreCheck, you’ll still need a REAL ID or other acceptable identification to board a domestic flight.
The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, is designed to improve security and prevent identification fraud. It establishes minimum standards for the design and issuance of driver’s licenses and state-issued ID cards. Federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, are prohibited from accepting identification that does not meet those standards.
Obtaining a REAL-ID compliant license is a more involved process than simply getting your current driver’s license renewed. While each state is handling things a little differently, there are a few basics to have covered when the time comes for you to obtain your REAL ID:
You’ll need to present documents proving your age and identity, Social Security number and address. That usually means a valid passport or original birth certificate, a Social Security card or tax form, such as a W-2, with the entire number visible. You’ll also need two proofs of address, such a utility or cellphone bill, a bank statement or mortgage bill. If you’ve changed your name, a legal name-change document might be required.
The best, most up-to-date source of information is your state’s department of motor vehicles. To avoid a rush when travelers once again on the move, check with the DMV and start collecting the paperwork.
If you don’t want to get a REAL ID-compliant license, alternate forms of identification are still acceptable to the TSA for domestic flights. They include a passport, passport card, trusted traveler card issued by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Defense ID, including those issued to military dependents, or a permanent resident card.
Some states, including Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota and New York, offer REAL-ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which will be acceptable to airport security when enforcement goes into effect. Washington state only issues enhanced licenses. Enhanced driver’s licenses are marked with a flag. REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked with a star at the top of the card. States are allowed to issue compliant and non-compliant licenses. So even if you renewed your driver’s license recently, check to make sure that it complies.
Remember that any child under age 18 isn’t required to provide identification to board a domestic flight if they’re with an adult, although the companion will need an acceptable form of identification. That provision doesn’t change under the REAL ID Act.
If you want to apply for or renew a passport to use as your REAL ID, know that most passports are not being processed right now due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. passport agency announced that currently it is only offering service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.
Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g. parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours, or three days. You must provide:
- A passport application with supporting documents
- Proof of the life-or-death emergency such as a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. Documents must be translated or in English.
- Proof of international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket, itinerary)
Even if one qualified for essential international travel, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel at this time due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions.
For help navigating any travel plans, contact your travel advisor or connect with one at Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited.