Every year for the past 15 years or so, there’s been a looming deadline for travelers to get a new driver’s license or identification card that is REAL ID-compliant. Each year, the deadline keeps getting pushed for one reason or another and guess what? The government just postponed it again and it’s making everyone happy including the executive vice president of public affairs and policy of U.S. Travel Association. Tori Emerson Barnes issued the following statement: “Extending the REAL ID deadline is the right decision, and U.S. Travel appreciates DHS leadership for recognizing that with more than 100 million Americans still lacking a REAL ID, now is not the time to create significant travel disruptions. This delay helps give travelers the time necessary to get the credential needed to fly domestically.
So what does all of this mean for travelers? Not much until 2025. Keep reading for everything you need to know. RELATED: 12 Passport Tips That Will Save You Time, Money and Headaches
What is REAL ID?
First of all, what is REAL ID? REAL ID is a national set of standards, not a national identification card. The purpose of REAL ID is to make identity documents more consistent and secure.
How do you know if your driver’s license is REAL ID-compliant?
According to the TSA, check for the star. “REAL ID-compliant cards are marked with a star at the top of the card. If you’re not sure, contact your state driver’s license agency on how to obtain a REAL ID compliant card. For information by state, including where to obtain a REAL ID, visit the DHS REAL ID website and click your state on the map.” Good to know: Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York states issue REAL ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which are acceptable. Washington state issues enhanced driver’s licenses only.
How do I know if I’m REAL ID-ready?
If you’re not sure whether you need a REAL ID, visit the Department of Homeland Security website and fill out their questionnaire to help you determine if you need one or not.
What do I need to get a REAL ID?
According to ABC News, REAL ID licenses require more proof of identity, such as a Social Security card, tax form or pay stub. In some states, REAL ID compliant licenses are the only form of licenses given out to residents, while others are optional.
Why I’m not rushing to get a REAL ID
When I first heard the news years ago, I rushed out to the DMV to get a REAL ID. I thought I had all the paperwork but it turned out I was missing something so I ended up not getting a star on my California’s driver’s license. However, I realized I don’t need one because every time I travel, I always bring my passport, even on domestic trips, just in case I have to make an emergency trip outside of the country. If you travel with a passport domestically, you don’t need to worry as that will suffice. Other forms of acceptable ID are listed below.
What forms of ID are acceptable for domestic flyers?
Until May 7, 2025, a standard-issue driver’s license is an acceptable form of ID for domestic flyers at U.S. airports. From May 7 forward, you must show one (1) item from this list:
- REAL ID-compliant state driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards
- US passport
- US passport card
- DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
- US Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
- Permanent resident card
- Border crossing card
- State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
- HSPD-12 PIV card
- Foreign government-issued passport
- Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- Transportation worker identification credential
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
- US Merchant Mariner Credential
Will minors need to have a driver’s license or state ID to fly domestically?
Fortunately, the TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. But obviously, the companion will need acceptable identification.
What happens if I show up without a valid driver’s license or state ID?
According to the TSA: “Starting May 3, 2023, every traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or an acceptable form of identification to fly within the U.S. Passengers who do not present an acceptable form of identification will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.”
If you don’t have a REAL ID but travel domestically with a passport or some other acceptable form of ID, you don’t have to worry. But if you don’t have a passport or don’t want to travel domestically with it, then you better make an appointment for your REAL ID as soon as possible. Because if the government doesn’t push the date again, which it appears they won’t, then there’s going to be a major crush at the DMV. Just imagine those lines at Costco during the height of the pandemic, only moving at a fraction of the pace. Yeah, not fun. Don’t wait. Be prepared.
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