Updated April 10, 2023
National Security is a top priority for the United States, and the forms with which we identify ourselves are being upgraded to meet the minimum-security standards established in the REAL ID Act. The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 as an effort to boost the security features of identification cards and therefore, circumvent tampering and counterfeiting. The Act also establishes stricter document requirements in the application process as an added measure to prevent unauthorized individuals from obtaining a REAL ID.
Twelve years later, the Act is now in its final phase; to restrict boarding on federally-regulated commercial aircraft. Starting January 22, 2018, individuals whose driver’s license or identification card have been issued by a state that is not REAL ID-compliant, must have an alternative form of identification to fly commercially. There is an exception for travelers from states that have been granted an extension to comply with the REAL ID standards. Up until the states’ extension dates, travelers using a driver’s license or identification card issued by one of these states will still be allowed to fly commercially without needing to provide an alternative form of ID. To find your state’s compliance status and/or extension date, click here.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has conducted education and outreach campaigns to inform the public of the upcoming requirement, but there is still likely confusion on the topic. For example, the State of Nevada is REAL ID compliant, but there are still many Nevada-issued IDs that don’t qualify. A REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card is typically marked with a yellow star, as seen in the image below. If you are unsure whether you hold a REAL ID, contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or visit their website for more information.
The last step in the final phase goes into effect in the year 2020. On October 1, 2020, every single air traveler flying commercially will be required to have a REAL ID-compliant form of identification. Luckily, REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards are not the only option for air travel. There are several acceptable forms of identification that include, but are not limited to: Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, U.S. and Foreign government-issued passports, U.S. passport cards, DHS trusted traveler cards (i.e. Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST) and permanent resident cards. A complete list of acceptable identification can be found on TSA’s website.
Mark your calendar. October 1, 2020 will be here faster than you think and it is important for travelers to review their identification options prior to traveling. Even for those who seldom travel, it is better to have a REAL ID readily available and not use it, than need a REAL ID and not have it.
Please Note: The deadline for REAL ID has been extended to May 7, 2025.