The REAL ID Act: What is it?
The REAL ID law was passed by Congress in 2005. The act was formulated in the wake of September 11, based on recommendations by the 9/11 commission. The aim is to increase national safety and prevent identity theft by establishing minimum standards for the issuance of identification cards and driver’s licenses.
In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a phased enforcement plan; since then, the act has slowly been rolled out, with different states at different stages of implementation and many temporary extensions granted.
A press release in 2018 revealed that 37 states and territories were determined compliant by the DHS. This meant 19 states/territories were yet to comply, including California, New Jersey, and Illinois, home to some of the largest U.S. airports.
However, the regulations established October the 1st 2020 as the deadline for enforcement, and the DHS says that it is committed to this date, and is therefore unlikely to grant any further extensions.
What does REAL ID mean for my travel plans?
From October the 1st 2020, to access to federal facilities — including aircraft — every state and territory resident will be required to present REAL ID compliant license/ID. From this date, individuals without valid REAL ID, or other acceptable form of ID, will not be permitted to enter TSA checkpoints, and will not be allowed to fly.
Other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, will still be accepted as an alternative form of identification. You can find a full list of acceptable forms of ID for domestic travel in our FAQ's below.
It is important to note that this only applies to domestic travel within the United States. For US residents travelling internaionally, a valid passport will still continue to be required.
The bottom line: travellers should get prepared. The Transportation Security Administration has enforced the message that travellers should get their paperwork in now—2020 is coming sooner than you think!
How to get REAL ID?
States will not send out new REAL ID compliant licenses automatically. You must make an appointment and physically go to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to register for a new card. All states currently issue compliant ID’s. However, you can choose not to upgrade your license.
What does compliant ID look like?
In most states, ID can be identified as compliant if it has a gold or black star on the front. This is true for all states, except Hawaii, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah. The best way to check is if you card says “Federal Limits Apply” or “Not for Federal Identification” then you know that it is not compliant.