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Getting Real with Real ID

Throughout life, a state-issued driver’s license (or ID card, where applicable) is required for many scenarios: driving a car, purchasing tobacco or alcohol, checking into a hotel, and passing through security at airports. But if your driver’s license or ID card doesn’t have a star or state-specific emblem in the upper corner, it may not be REAL ID compliant and could soon become obsolete for air travel.

Beginning October 1, 2020, every air traveler 18 years and older will need a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID such as a U.S. passport, military ID, or DHS Trusted Traveler Card to fly within the United States.

Why? What is REAL ID?
A REAL ID card is a form of identification meeting heightened security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.

In response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that identification requirements be tightened, Congress passed in 2005 the REAL ID Act to “set standards of the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states not meeting these standards. Agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles thus require more paperwork under the new act.

Included among the new security requirements are features designed to make counterfeiting cards harder. REAL IDs have a barcode, which when scanned, pulls up information including the holder’s full name, birth date, and license number. The supporting documents used to obtain a REAL ID are required to be kept on file.

How Do I Get a REAL ID?
You won’t be able to get a REAL ID online or through the mail. Check with your local DMV about an appointment and to verify the required and accepted documents. Preparation should include the following:

• An original or certified document that proves your identity, such as a passport or birth certificate—photocopies are not accepted
• A document that shows your Social Security number, such as a W-2 form
• Two documents proving your residency, including your street address, such as a utility bill, rental agreement or mortgage statement. You can use photocopies for these.
• If you’ve changed your legal name, you’ll need additional original or certified documents.
• Cash, check or debit card to pay the fee. The cost varies by state, but it’s usually less than $60.

What the REAL ID Isn’t
A REAL ID is required for entering airport security checkpoints and boarding aircraft, as well as entering secured federal facilities and nuclear plants. REAL ID is not a substitute for a passport for international travel. It is not a national identification card and does not create a federal database of driver license information.

REAL ID requirements don’t apply to:
• Voting or registering to vote
• Applying for or receiving federal benefits
• Being licensed by a state to drive
• Entering federal facilities that do not require identification
• Accessing health or life-preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement, or constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court
• Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigation

The Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, airports, and travel agents are urging travelers to renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs early and to be sure to opt for the "enhanced" or "compliant" versions which require additional paperwork and may cost more than the "for driving only" or "unenhanced" versions in some states. Here are some common reasons to comply with obtaining a REAL ID and a few reasons why you may elect not to get one.

A REAL ID allows you to:
• Fly domestically with only your state-issued ID and forego bringing a passport or other TSA-approved identification
• Visit a secure federal facility, such as a military base, when you don’t have a military ID

You may not need a REAL ID if:
• You are under 18 years old
• You only need your ID for identification purposes
• You don’t mind bringing other TSA-approved ID to fly beginning October 1, 2020

The TSA lists approved forms of identification you can use as:
• Valid U.S. passport or passport card
• DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
• U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
• Permanent resident card
• Border crossing card
• DHS-designated 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
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
• U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Learn more about flying with a REAL ID at tsa.gov/real-id. You may also request information by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by calling (866) 289-9673.

Frequently asked questions for the public can be reviewed at the Department of Homeland Security’s page here.