EDIT: As of March 27, 2020, the Real ID deadline has been pushed to October 1, 2021. This is in an effort to give states and individuals more time to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak
If you haven’t heard about the new Real ID requirements for identification, it’s important that you learn about them as soon as possible—especially if you’re planning to board an airplane this year. Beginning October 1, 2020, travelers using a state driver’s license at airport security will be required to have a license that adheres to the new Real ID requirements. Here’s what you need to know about these requirements and how to tell if your driver’s license is compliant.
About the Real ID Act
The Real ID Act has actually been around for about 15 years. Initially enacted in May of 2005, the goal of the Real ID Act was to improve national security by implementing new standards pertaining to authentication and issuance standards for identification documents. So why are you just now hearing about it?
The Real ID Act has been implemented in four different phases. The first three phases all involved improved security measures at federal facilities, so this fourth and final phase of the Real ID Act is the first to directly impact the general public. The fourth phase is currently in effect, and travelers are expected to have Real ID-compliant identification for air travel. However, extensions may be granted at this time. But as of October 1st of this year, extensions will no longer be granted; so, if you don’t have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license when you get to airport security after this date, you don’t fly.
Why Was the Change Needed?
As we mentioned, the goal of the Read ID Act was to improve national security, and ensuring that travelers are using a valid ID was a part of achieving that goal. Driver’s licenses are the most common form of identification used in the United States, but they are issued on a state level, not by the federal government. Additionally, the U.S. has no national identification card.
But the appearance of and information contained on a state driver’s license has historically varied from one state to the next. This makes it difficult for airport security personnel to identify false identification, as they cannot be familiar with the correct appearance of all states’ driver’s licenses. The Real ID Act standardizes not only the look of and data contained on a driver’s license, but also sets specific documentation requirements that must be met in order to receive the driver’s license.
This standardization makes it more difficult to receive a license with a false name and also makes it easier for security personnel to recognize falsified driver’s licenses.
Is Your License Compliant?
States have been issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses for many years now. However, if you haven’t had to renew your driver’s license in quite some time, it may not be compliant with the new standards. If you’re traveling this year, take a moment to double check and ensure your license is compliant.
The easiest way to do this is look for a star in the upper right-hand corner on the front of the license. If the star is present, your driver’s license is compliant and you have nothing to worry about. If the star is missing or it says something like “Federal Limits Apply” or “Not for Federal Identification” on your card, the license is not compliant and won’t be usable at the airport.
What If It’s Not Compliant?
If you check your driver’s license and don’t find a star on it, then you need to update your driver’s license before flying anywhere this year—especially after October 1st. To do this, you’ll need to make an appointment at the DMV field office. Bring along another form of ID, such as a birth certificate or passport, as well as your Social Security card. You’ll also need a document proving your residency, like a mortgage bill or lease agreement. The DMV will issue you a new, compliant driver’s license for a fee.
Traveling without a Real ID-Compliant License
If you already have travel plans and won’t be able to update your license before the deadline, it is possible to travel without one. You’ll simply need an approved form of federal identification, such as a passport, when you get to airport security. Without a Real ID-compliant license, a passport would be required to fly, even if you’re not leaving the country.
If you know you’ll be traveling this year, we strongly recommend that you don’t wait. Check your license now and make a DMV appointment to update it as soon as possible if you need to. And if you ever need a hand with booking your next vacation, contact Cruise Elite to work with one of our expert travel agents.