Real ID: If You Don't Have the Star, You're Not Flying

Real ID: If You Don't Have the Star, You're Not Flying

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Right now, due to the coronavirus, airplanes are flying empty and airports are deserted, but that will change. Once the virus abates, there will be pent up demand for both business and pleasure travel, and if you're looking forward to taking a trip this Fall, you might be in for a surprise.

Starting October 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has mandated that in order to board a domestic flight, all air travelers 18 years of age and older must present a Real ID at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.

And, it's not just flying that will be affected, you will also need the new ID in order to enter a U.S. federal building, a military installation or a nuclear power plant.

What is Real ID?

It's your state's driver's license with a star in the upper right corner. Real ID licenses are more difficult to forge.

Michigan, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington state issue enhanced licenses, which display a flag, that meet the Real ID requirements. State-issued enhanced drivers licenses (EDLs) provide proof of identity and U.S. citizenship and are a convenient alternative for entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

Real IDs came out of a recommendation made by the 9/11 Commission. In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act to create a single standard for all U.S. states and territories.


Most U.S. states have already begun issuing the new licenses, with 95 million issued so far. However, that's just 34% of the total number of licenses that need to be issued, and up to 181 million state driver's licenses don't have the star.

Two states — Oregon and Oklahoma — haven't even begun issuing the new licenses yet. On April 30, 2020, Oklahoma will begin issuing Real IDs at only a handful of DMV offices, with the rest of their offices coming onboard during the Summer. Oregon authorities say they won't start issuing Real IDs until July 2020, three months before the deadline.

How to get a Real ID

Real IDs require more proof of identification than regular state driver's licenses. To get a new driver's license with a Real ID, you will need to go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and present:

  • Proof of identity - an original or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, a permanent resident card or an unexpired foreign passport along with a valid U.S. visa and an approved I-94 form, photocopies will not be accepted
  • Proof of Social Security number - an SSN card, W-2 form or a pay stub showing your full SSN, photocopies will not be accepted
  • Two forms of proof of residency - a mortgage statement, rental agreement or utility bill, deed or title to residential property, or insurance documents, photocopies will be accepted.

If your name is different from what is on your birth certificate, you will need to provide documentation of the change, for example, a marriage certificate, or a court order granting the name change.

To ensure that you receive your updated driver's license in the mail, make sure your state's Driver License Division has your current mailing address. In some states, state mail cannot be forwarded, so if your mailing address is incorrect, you will not receive the license even if you have submitted a forwarding request with USPS.

If going to the DMV is your idea of the second circle of hell, things are about to get much worse. According to a New York Times article, wait times at California DMV offices are up significantly, and in New York state, Real ID transactions have increased by 575% since November 2017.

If you can't get a Real ID in time for your travels, you can use other forms of identification:

  • A U.S. passport
  • Military ID card
  • Global Entry card
  • DHS Trusted Traveler card.

Being enrolled in the TSA's Precheck program does not exempt you from the necessity of obtaining a Real ID.

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