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The Low-Down: The Real ID Explained

by Tykesha77

Updated 3/31/2020
Due to the pandemic, the Real ID deadline has been extended to October 1, 2021.

There’s a lot of confusion about the driver’s license that you’ll need to take a domestic flight in the U.S. next year.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently started to verbally notify travelers about the upcoming Real ID deadline.

The Low-Down

On October 1, 2020, the Real ID law will be enforced. This law, which was passed in 2005 after 9/11, created an across-the-board national security standard for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The law also stops federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting, licenses and ID cards from states that don’t meet the new federal security standards.

So, if you don’t have a Real ID or TSA-approved alternate ID (most common U.S. passport or U.S. passport card) by the October 1, 2021 deadline you will not be allowed to fly within the United States.

What is it?

The Real ID is an updated driver’s license or ID card that has a star in the top right corner.  That star indicates that the applicant provided certain identifying documentation to the motor vehicle department in their state. These documents are required by the federal government to prove who the applicant is and to establish that their permanent residence is in the U.S.  The updated state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards also have new security features that will help to prevent duplication, counterfeiting, and tampering.

Some areas have state-specific stars for their Real IDs.

Most states are already issuing these new Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and IDs. Only four states ­– Maine, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Oregon – and American Samoa are still working on it.  Those states were given extensions.  Check with your state department of motor vehicles to determine if your state is compliant.

How to get a Real ID

To get a Real ID, you will need to present documents like your birth certificate, passport, Social Security Card, or a tax form like a W-2, to prove your age, identity, Social Security number, and address.


  • If your driver’s license or ID is not compliant with the Real ID Act by October 1, 2021, or your state’s extended deadline, you’ll have to show another TSA-approved ID to travel by air within the United States.
    • The most common alternative to the Real ID is a U.S. passport or U.S. passport card. Other TSA-approved IDs are: Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST), permanent resident card, Department of Defense ID, enhanced driver’s license, or federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID.
  • In some states, you can still use your old school driver’s license to drive.  However, you won’t be able to use it board a plane or enter certain federal buildings.
  • This requirement applies to all air travelers, 18 years and older, who use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic travel within the U.S.
  • The Real ID does not take the place of your passport. You’ll still need your passport for international travel.

For more information about the Real ID travel requirements, click here.


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