Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, a "Real ID" driver's license or ID card will be needed to board domestic flights and enter military buildings, some federal buildings and nuclear facilities, unless you have an alternate form of identification such as a valid passport or military ID.
The Real ID Act was passed in Congress in 2005 to create security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards. It's intended to help combat terrorism and identity theft.
What is a Real ID?
A Real ID is a state-issued driver's license or photo ID card that meets federal identification standards. If you have a star in the upper-right corner of your license, you already have a Real ID.
To get a Real ID-compliant license, you will need to bring certain documents to your state's department of motor vehicles when you renew your license. The types of documents required include:
- Proof of identity such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, foreign passport or permanent resident card.
- Proof of your Social Security number (SSN) such as your Social Security card, a W-2 or a pay stub with your full SSN.
- Proof of state residency such as a rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill, insurance document, tax return or a school document that includes proof of payment of resident tuition.
It's a good idea to check with your state DMV prior to going to determine what specific documents you'll need. If you're applying for a driver's license or identification for the first time in your state, you may need additional documents.
When you renew a license you don't have to get a Real ID. You can reject it and just get a regular license. But you'll have restrictions for flying and going into federal buildings.
Real ID vs. standard ID
Typically, a Real ID will have a star in the upper right corner. Driver's licenses and identification cards that are not Real IDs will have language such as "Federal Limits Apply" or "Not For Federal Identification Purposes" in the upper-right corner.
What about an enhanced driver's license?
An enhanced driver's license (EDL) is Real ID-compliant and acceptable for boarding domestic flights and entering federal buildings, according to the Department of Homeland Security. EDLs are state-issued have an electronic chip and barcode with a unique number assigned to the card.
Currently, EDLs are available only in Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington. The Department of Homeland Security has more information on EDLs.
How much is a Real ID?
The cost of a Real ID depends on your state. In some states, getting a Real ID may cost the same as renewing a driver's license. In other states, for an additional fee, you can upgrade a regular driver's license to a Real ID even if you're not due for a renewal. Some states require a one-time fee plus a license-renewal fee.
Do I need a Real ID?
The Real ID is optional and the Real ID act will not go into effect until Oct. 1, 2020. After this date, you won't be required to get a Real ID compliant driver's license or identification card. However, you could be barred from boarding domestic flights and entering certain federal buildings and nuclear facilities unless you have another acceptable form of identification for entry, such as a valid passport or military ID.
There are common situations that will not require a Real ID, including:
- Driving (but you will need a state-issued driver's license or an international driver's license).
- Voting in an election.
- Applying for certain federal benefits, such as benefits from Veterans Affairs or the Social Security Administration.
- Entering a federal facility that doesn't require an ID, such as the post office or a museum.
- Getting access to a hospital or emergency services.
- Participating in law enforcement proceedings, such as serving on a jury or testifying at a trial.
Real ID state DMV information
Click your state to go to its DMV page with information about getting a Real ID.