By now you’ve probably heard about REAL IDs – whether on the news or from the flyers posted in every airport. But do you really know how the incoming REAL ID mandates will impact you?
We’re going to tell you exactly what a REAL ID is, how it will affect your future travel, and what you need to do to be ready starting May 7, 2025.
Table of Contents:
- What is the REAL ID Act?
- How does the REAL ID Act affect me?
- What is a REAL ID card?
- Why are REAL IDs being rolled out?
- What does a REAL ID look like?
- Do I need a Real ID?
- Reasons to get a REAL ID
- Reasons to not get a REAL ID
- Can I use a standard driver’s license after the deadline?
- Do I still need a U.S. Passport?
- How do I get a REAL ID?
- REAL ID State-by-State Guide
What is the REAL ID Act?
The REAL ID Act is a law passed in 2005 by the United States Congress which prohibits federal agencies from accepting state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards that do not meet the minimum security standards for “official purposes”.
The federal government is telling states they’re not going to accept standard-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards as valid proof of identification in areas secured by the federal government. But, the federal government will accept REAL IDs, which meet their security requirements.
The REAL ID Act was passed in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. The attackers were able to obtain fraudulent driver’s licenses and were able to pass security and board the aircraft.
For more information on the REAL ID Act visit dhs.gov/real-id.
How does the REAL ID Act affect me?
Starting May 7, 2025, you will need a REAL ID or another acceptable form of REAL ID-compliant identification to:
- Board federally regulated commercial aircraft
- Enter federal facilities with security such as courthouses and jails
- Enter nuclear power plants
What is a REAL ID card?
A REAL ID is a state-issued driver’s license or ID card which is compliant with the increased Federal security standards set by the REAL ID Act.
A REAL ID is like any ordinary driver’s license/ID but to get one, you need to present extra documentation to your state’s DMV or driver’s license agency.
Why are REAL IDs being rolled out?
Well, it’s a long debate but basically, each state has its own driver’s license and ID card issuing standards, and some states make it much easier to get one than others. So the federal government is drawing the line and telling every state that to access federally secured areas, you will need a REAL ID card that meets their minimum security standards.
What does a REAL ID look like?
It’s really easy to tell if your ID is REAL ID – look for the star!
Most REAL IDs have a gold or black star in the upper-right-hand corner of the ID card.
If your ID doesn’t have a star or says ‘Not For Federal Purposes’ or ‘Not For Federal Identification’, then you have a standard state-issued ID.
If your ID looks like the example below then you’re good to go!
If you’re not sure, visit your state’s REAL ID website to find out what one looks like in your state.
Do I need a Real ID?
Probably not. Most people have passports/passport cards and don’t need regular access to federal courthouses, nuclear power plants, the White House, military bases, or other federally secured areas.
Renewing your license online is super convenient so we can see a lot of people choosing not to get a REAL ID simply because they want to avoid a DMV visit and already have a compliant form of TSA-approved ID.
However, if you need to visit the DMV for your first driver’s license, transfer your out-of-state license to a new state, or replace your current ID due to a name change (marriage, divorce, or court order), it usually makes sense to just to get a REAL ID anyway since you’re already there.
Reasons to get a REAL ID
- You’d prefer to travel with your state-issued ID (mostly a convenience factor)
- You don’t have a passport/passport card or another type of TSA-approved identification
- You need to visit a federally secured facility such as a courthouse or military base
- It typically costs the same as a standard ID
Reasons to not get a REAL ID
- You’re under 18 (must be 18+ to apply)
- You don’t travel often
- You have a TSA-approved document and don’t mind bringing it when you travel
- It requires a trip to the DMV (REAL IDs aren’t issued online)
Can I use a standard driver’s license after the deadline?
Yes! You can still use a standard (non-compliant) state-issued driver’s license to do the following:
- Operate a vehicle in any state across the country
- Vote or register to vote
- Apply for or receive federal benefits
- Access state and federal health and medical services
- Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations
- Enter federal facilities that don’t require identification
Do I still need a U.S. Passport?
It depends. You will need a passport if you plan on traveling internationally.
If you have a valid REAL ID, you won’t need a passport to fly domestically to any state or territory, and to enter a federal facility.
How do I get a REAL ID?
You will need to visit your state’s DMV or driver’s license agency in person. We highly recommend setting up an appointment if possible. Some states are notorious for long DMV lines. Setting up an appointment is your best bet to limit your time in line!
- Recommended: Schedule an appointment online to visit your state’s DMV or driver’s license agency (if applicable). See the table below to learn more about the REAL ID requirements in your state.
- Bring the following required documents:
- Proof of Identity: Your current driver’s license/ID card
- Proof of Citizenship: Official birth certificate, valid U.S. Passport, Unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. Visa and approved I-94 form, or a Certificate of Naturalization
- Proof of Social Security Number: Your Social Security card or a W-2 with your full name and Social Security Number
- Proof of Residency: Two (2) documents are required such as a utility bill, mortgage/lease statement, bank statement, or credit card statement. Must contain your full name and address.
- Proof of Name Change (if applicable): If you’ve changed your legal name bring your legal name change document (marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)
- Pay the required REAL ID fee
REAL ID State-by-State Guide
|REAL ID Link
|REAL ID Status
|Alabama STAR ID
|Alaska REAL ID
|Arizona Travel ID
|Arkansas REAL ID
|California REAL ID
|Colorado REAL ID
|Connecticut REAL ID
|Delaware Secure ID
|Florida REAL ID
|Georgia Secure ID
|Hawaii REAL ID
|Idaho Star Card
|Illinois REAL ID
|Indiana REAL ID
|Iowa REAL ID
|Kansas REAL ID
|Kentucky REAL ID
|Louisiana REAL ID
|Maine REAL ID
|Maryland REAL ID
|Massachusetts REAL ID
|Michigan REAL ID
|Minnesota REAL ID
|Mississippi REAL ID
|Missouri REAL ID
|Montana REAL ID
|Nebraska REAL ID
|Nevada REAL ID
|New Hampshire REAL ID
|New Jersey REAL ID
|New Mexico REAL ID
|New York REAL ID
|North Carolina REAL ID
|North Dakota REAL ID
|Ohio REAL ID
|Oklahoma REAL ID
|Oregon REAL ID
|Pennsylvania REAL ID
|Rhode Island REAL ID
|South Carolina REAL ID
|South Dakota REAL ID
|Tennessee REAL ID
|Texas REAL ID
|Utah REAL ID
|Vermont REAL ID
|Virginia REAL ID
|Washington DC REAL ID
|Washington REAL ID
|West Virginia REAL ID
|Wisconsin REAL ID
|Wyoming REAL ID
If your state complies with the REAL ID Act it means that they are currently issuing REAL IDs. If you hold a standard driver’s license/ID, you are not federally compliant and will need to show an alternative form of identification to board a commercial aircraft.
If your state is not in compliance with the REAL ID Act it means your state is not currently issuing REAL IDs. You will be able to use your standard driver’s licenses/IDs to board a commercial aircraft until the extension date granted in the table below (unless additional extensions are granted.
The deadline is coming up quickly! If you plan on boarding an aircraft after May 7, 2025, you will need to present a REAL ID or another valid form of acceptable ID (like a passport or passport card) to board a commercial aircraft.
Now is the time to determine if you’re going to (or not going to) be REAL ID compliant.
If you have a passport then you probably don’t need a REAL ID card, but there are benefits to having both.
If you decide to get a REAL ID, make sure to visit your state’s DMV website (links above) and to schedule an appointment to avoid the lines!
Thanks for reading!
Frequently Ask Questions
Does my state have a REAL ID?
All states either issue REAL IDs or have an extension in place. If your state is under an extension, your standard state-issued ID will work for flying until the extension expires. Please refer to the TSA’s website to see if your state is compliant.
Do I have to get a REAL ID?
No. You are not required to have a REAL ID. The choice is up to you.
Do I need a REAL ID to fly domestically?
Starting May 7, 2025, you will need a REAL ID or another acceptable form of TSA-approved identification to fly domestically in a commercial aircraft.
Do I need a REAL ID to fly internationally?
No. You need a U.S. Passport to fly internationally.
Can I get a REAL ID if I’m not a U.S. Citizen?
Yes. Non-U.S. citizens can present acceptable identity documentation such as a valid, unexpired Green Card or foreign passport. Non-citizens must also present proof of social security. If you don’t have a social security number, you must provide your social security ineligibility letter.
How do I change my name on my REAL ID?
Bring your valid REAL ID and your legal name change document (marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order) to your state’s DMV or licensing issuing agency. If you have an out-of-state REAL ID card, you must present the required documents for that state.
Can I transfer my REAL ID to another state?
No. Your out-of-state REAL ID can’t transfer to another state. You will need to visit your new state’s DMV and provide the required documents.
Do I need a passport if I have a REAL ID?
If you plan on traveling internationally, then yes, you will need a passport.
What’s an Enhanced Driver’s License?
An enhanced driver’s license (EDL) is a REAL ID-compliant and federally-approved border-crossing document that provides U.S. citizens the ability to cross a U.S. border from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean via land or seaport (no air travel). An enhanced driver’s license is typically more expensive than a REAL ID.
What’s the difference between a REAL ID and an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)?
- A REAL ID can be used:
- To board a domestic flight within the U.S.
- To enter a federal building or military base
- for photo identification purposes
- An Enhanced Driver’s License can be used to:
- to board a domestic flight within the U.S.
- to enter a federal building or military base
- to cross a U.S. border via land or sea from Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries (it is not acceptable for air travel)
- for photo identification purposes
- A REAL ID can be used:
What does a REAL ID cost?
It varies by state. The majority of REAL IDs cost between $10-$60 and are valid for 2-6 years.
Do I need a REAL ID to vote in 2025?
No, you don’t need REAL ID to vote. You will be able to vote with a standard state-issued driver’s license or ID card.
What is the purpose of REAL ID?
The purpose of the REAL ID Act is to develop a national set of standards making state-issued identification more consistent and secure.
What IDs are accepted by TSA after May 7, 2025?
- REAL ID driver’s license or other REAL ID-compliant state photo identity card (i.e. Enhanced Drivers License) issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
- U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
- DHS trusted traveler card (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 (TWIC)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
- U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential