The REAL ID Act: What It Means + Updates for 2020
First Thing's First - What Is the REAL ID Act?
Created in the aftermath of September 11 and passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act has been passed to "set a criteria for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses."
The REAL ID Act has an aim to eliminate airline terrorism by raising the requirements to obtain federal documents, thus prohibiting entry to domestic flights for those that don't qualify.
State agencies that issue licenses and identification cards, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, will need more paperwork showing evidence of residency and Social Security Number than the previous standards for licenses and ID cards.
In addition, the REAL ID cards themselves will also be designed using brand new technologies, which will make them far more challenging to forge.
It has taken the federal government nearly 15 years as each state has a different status of implementation for the action and a gradual process that has been fulfilled after much confusion surrounding the REAL ID Act. However, all states will need to be in compliance by October 1, 2020.
Understandably, many are concerned they will lose the capability to use their current license or ID cards as a consequence of the REAL ID Act. No need for concern there, you can continue to use your normal license or identification cards to drive and to vote. That being said, in order to fly you will either need to present an alternate kind of TSA-approved ID, like a passport, or obtain a REAL ID. As always, you will continue to be required to present a passport when flying internationally.
What Does the REAL ID Act Mean For Me?
Airports are deemed as federal facilities, and consequently prohibits your ability to board your flight or even enter the airport at all because of the REAL ID Act.
Beginning October 1, 2020, every state and territory resident will have to present a REAL ID compliant license or another acceptable form of identification (such as a passport or passport card) when entering federal facilities and when boarding commercial aircrafts.
Most states and territories have begun issuing the new licenses, which means you will have until October 1, 2020 to obtain a REAL ID compliant license. So be sure to check your license to see if it includes a star in the top right corner, indicating that it is indeed a REAL ID.
Lots of drivers may not realize they already have one, because some states have been issuing them for a few years.
If you have a driver's license from one of the states that were granted an extension, your license is fine for air travel through the dates noted on your state requirements website unless extra extensions were given.
Exactly What the REAL ID Act ISN'T
A REAL ID is NOT a replacement for a passport for international travel. There are also a couple more items that the REAL ID doesn't affect:
REAL ID requirements don't apply to:
Voting or registering to vote
Applying for or receiving federal benefits
Being licensed by a state to drive or to rent a vehicle
Entering federal facilities that don't require REAL ID identification (such as a defendant's access to court proceedings, National Parks, and Social Security offices)
Accessing health- or life-preserving services (such as hospitals and health clinics)
Engaging in law enforcement proceedings or investigation
Ability to purchase alcohol, cash checks, or gamble
You can even continue to use your existing driver's license or ID card for other forms of U.S. travel such as driving in and across state lines or traveling by train.
Do I Actually Need A REAL ID?
In a majority of cases, obtaining a REAL ID isn't crucial. Yet, there are still many reasons that people choose to get one. Here is a breakdown of some of the reasons why you might want to consider getting a REAL ID, and a couple of reasons you might not:
Common Reasons to Acquire A REAL ID
You want to fly with only your state-issued ID
You do not possess a passport or another TSA-approved ID
You want to visit a secure federal facility, such as a military base, and do not have a military ID
Reasons You Might Not Need a REAL ID
You are under 18 years old
You only need your ID for purposes of identification (ie. to vote, serve on a jury, driving)
You do not mind bringing another TSA-approved ID (like a passport) when you fly beginning on Oct. 1, 2020
Regardless of your preferences regarding getting a new REAL ID license or identification card, it's good to know what you're up against and stay in tune with the laws surrounding travel and the changes being applied to flying domestically.
Check your state's laws and regulations for the REAL ID (which can be found on most local DMV sites) and make sure you're fully prepared before you head to the airport for your next great adventure.