In 2021 DHS said only 43% of driver’s licenses were REAL IDs. If you want to use your license to fly in the U.S. after May 2025, it will need to be a REAL ID.
UPDATE (12/5/22): The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced it is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline by two years. Now, drivers licenses that don’t meet REAL ID standards can still be used to board aircrafts until May 7, 2025, when enforcement will begin and such drivers licenses will no longer be valid as a form of identification by federal agencies, such as the TSA. Dates in the story have been updated to reflect the new deadline, otherwise the story continues as published below.
Anyone who has been to a DMV in the last couple of years has likely seen signs and posters that say REAL ID is coming soon, and everyone will need one to fly.
REAL ID is a state ID card or driver’s license that meets stricter issuance standards than a typical state ID would. Some states began the transition to REAL IDs for licenses a decade ago, while others only started more recently. REAL ID’s stricter standards, and its late adoption by some states, has made it so many Americans still don’t have a REAL ID.
Angel texted the VERIFY team to ask if they need a REAL ID to travel domestically and internationally.
Does your driver’s license need to be a REAL ID to fly domestically?
No, your driver’s license does not need to be a REAL ID to fly domestically. That will change on May 7, 2025, when the federal government will start requiring it.
WHAT WE FOUND
Currently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lists regular driver’s licenses and state photo ID cards as acceptable forms of identification at airport checkpoints, but it notes that all such IDs must be REAL ID compliant by the May 7, 2025 deadline for anyone seeking to fly within the U.S.
After that date, the only driver’s licenses or state ID cards TSA will accept will be REAL ID cards. TSA will also accept passports and certain other forms of identification. REAL ID cards won’t be enough to get on international flights, TSA says, which will still require passports.
The REAL ID Act became law in 2005, and prohibited federal agencies from accepting state driver’s licenses and IDs, unless those documents met minimum security requirements. These requirements would be set by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and included “the incorporation of specified data, a common machine-readable technology, and certain anti-fraud security features.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to be issued a REAL ID, you must provide documents that prove your full legal name, your date of birth, your Social Security number, two proofs of address and lawful status. A REAL ID driver’s license or ID will include a star on it to identify it, according to the U.S. Travel Association, which represents companies in the American travel industry.
For example, if someone were to apply for a REAL ID, they could provide a U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport, an original Social Security card, a bank account statement with their address listed and a utility bill with their address listed as a set of acceptable documents. Someone not born in the U.S. would have to provide a fifth document to prove their legal authorization to be in the U.S., such as a Permanent Resident Card or a Certificate of Naturalization.
In 2012 only 13 states had been verified by DHS as REAL ID compliant, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and since then every state has updated its license requirements to meet REAL ID standards. States still allow residents to get regular driver’s licenses and state IDs by submitting only one proof of residency instead of two proofs.
Passports and passport cards are also acceptable forms of identification that can be used instead of REAL IDs, and will continue to be even after regular licenses and state IDs will no longer be accepted. Other acceptable identification documents include Veteran Health Identification Cards, permanent resident cards and Department of Defense ID cards, among others.
In 2013, DHS announced REAL ID requirements for air travelers would first take effect in 2016. But the enforcement for these requirements has been delayed several times, most recently in April 2021 when DHS pushed REAL ID enforcement back to its current deadline.
At the time DHS announced the latest deadline extension, it said only 43% of state driver’s licenses and IDs were REAL ID compliant.
A March 2020 survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found an estimated 83 million American adults (34%) say they do not have any form of TSA-accepted identification — REAL ID, passport or any other listed TSA-accepted document — once the deadline passes.
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