Next year will bring a significant change in air travel in the U.S. Starting October 1, 2020, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will put into effect the Real ID Act, which involves the standardizing of identity documents. What does that mean for traveling through airport security and boarding your flight? Here is some essential information that you will need to make sure that you are Real ID-compliant and ready to go!
What is Real ID?
The concept for Real ID goes back almost two decades. After the tragic events of September 11th, the 9/11 Commission made several recommendations to improve security for access to federal facilities and commercial aircraft. One of those recommendations was that the federal government needed to set definitive standards for sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. The federal Real ID Act of 2005 sets the minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. Starting October 1, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will only be able to accept the state-issued IDs that meet the Real ID requirements.
Just to be clear: Real ID applies to flying within the United States only. This change does not impact identification documents needed to travel abroad.
In addition to being able to board domestic flights, those who hold Real ID compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards (sometimes known as a walker’s ID, for those who don’t drive) will be able to use them as a form of identification to access federal buildings, including military bases and nuclear power plants.
What Does Real ID Look Like and What Does It Cost?
Real ID cards will generally have a star at the top of the card, usually in the top right-hand corner. If you’re not sure if yours is compliant, it’s easy to check with your local DMV to make sure yours meets the Real ID requirements for your state.
The cost incurred for a Real ID-compliant card will vary from state to state. It is up to each state to determine if upgrading a driver’s license or ID card is equivalent to the cost of a renewal, a duplicate or a brand new license.
Do I Need a Real ID to Fly in 2019?
The Real ID Act doesn’t take effect until October 1, 2020. Therefore, the sources of identification you currently use are still acceptable documents for air travel this year. However, it will be a wise step to begin looking into a Real ID compliant license now, before the rush of people delays the process leading up to October of next year. (Remember, if you cannot produce an acceptable form of identification – such as a Real ID license, a permanent resident card, or a passport card – you will not be permitted through security checkpoints, making it pretty impossible for you to fly within the United States.)
Do I Need a Real ID if I Have a Passport?
A Real ID compliant driver’s license or ID card is necessary if you use either as your primary identification for when you fly within the U.S. However, there are several other forms of ID that will still be acceptable identification, including a valid passport or a military ID. You can visit the TSA website to see a complete list of acceptable identity documents.
What Do I Need to Do to Get a Real ID?
The process for getting a Real ID compliant license or ID card starts with a visit to your local Department of Motor Vehicles. You will need to go in person (not online) to present proof of identity so that your DMV office can issue you an updated ID.
In Virginia, for example, upgrading a driver’s license or ID card to meet Real ID requirements is pretty straightforward. It is very similar to obtaining a regular driver’s license or ID card. All applicants for a REAL ID compliant credential must provide the DMV with physical documentation of:
- Identity: (e.g. An unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate)
- Legal Presence: (e.g. Unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate)
- Social Security Number: (e.g. Social Security card , W-2 form or pay stub)
- Residency (two proofs required): (e.g. utility bills, mortgage statements, driver’s license displaying current residential street address)
- Proof of any name changes (e.g. marriage certificates or divorce decrees, stating your legal name)
Pro tip: set an appointment with your local DMV now to avoid the last-minute rush to beat the October 2020 deadline.
Do My Kids Need a Real ID?
The Real ID Act only applies to those over 18. From the TSA website: “TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.”
What Else Do I Need to Know About Real ID?
A Real ID is not a substitution for a valid passport for international travel. For travel outside of the United States, a passport is still a requirement. In addition, a Real ID driver’s license or ID card is not required for entering federal facilities such as museums that do not require a person to present identification.
If you are like me, you want to use time that you have on the front end to be prepared. I love to fly, and so I’ll be making a stop by my local DMV to find out more information. Let’s do what is needed for Real ID compliance and to be ready to fly those friendly skies in 2020!