picture of a sign at an airport talking abut the REAL ID

What You Need to Know About the REAL ID Driver’s License Changes Coming in 2021

Are You Ready for REAL ID?

If you head over to the TSA.gov site for REAL ID, you’ll find a running ticker giving a countdown until REAL ID becomes the standard identification for air travel. Starting October 1, 2021, every air traveler over the age of 18 will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the U.S. Other accepted forms of ID would be a U.S. military ID or a valid passport. 

What is REAL ID?

REAL ID cards are identified with a yellow star design at the top of your driver’s license. The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 after the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” These new minimum-security standards don’t allow federal agencies, like TSA, to accept identification cards from states that don’t meet the standards. One exception to this rule is if you have a state-issued enhanced driver’s license. As of the time of writing, only Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York issues enhanced driver’s licenses. These enhanced licenses do not have the REAL ID star design at the top of the card.

I Don't Have a Driver's License. Do I Still Need REAL ID? 

While many people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids are able to drive and therefore have a driver's license, for some, the nature of their disability does not allow them to hold a driver's license. In fact, many citizens have no need for a driver's license, especially in big cities, and rely on a state-issued ID card for their identification needs. For these individuals, a state-issued ID is considered an acceptable form of ID in order to fly within the U.S. See this list of acceptable forms of ID.

If I’m TSA Pre-Check, Do I Still Need REAL ID?

As of Oct. 1, 2021, all passengers flying within the U.S. will need a REAL ID driver’s license in order to pass through security and be allowed to travel. If you are flying internationally, your passport will still be the accepted form of identification.

How Do I Get a REAL ID?

Check with your state’s DMV, BMV or other driver’s license agency. You will need to visit in person to present relevant documentation in order to receive a REAL ID.

I Recently Updated My Driver’s License. Is it a REAL ID?

Not necessarily. States are legally allowed to issue both standard and REAL ID forms of license. The only way to know for sure is to look for the star design at the top of your license. If your license does not have this star, you will need to return to your driver’s license agency to update your ID again.

What If I Miss the Deadline or Forget My ID? Will I Miss My Flight?

If you lost your ID or left home without it, you may still be able to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process. This process includes collecting your personal information like your name and current address among other personal indicators. If your identity is confirmed, you can continue through the security checkpoint but will be subject to additional screening measures.

What Should I Do To Be Prepared for REAL ID?

Head over to this page to find a link for your local state’s licensing branch. From there, follow the instructions on site to learn what you will need to bring with you to update your license. 

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