The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had delayed the enforcement of the Real ID Law for another 19 months and won’t go into effect until May, 3, 2023. The deadline had previously been October 1, 2021. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas cited the pandemic, and its disruption of states’ abilities to issue the Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses, as the reason for the change. This will allow travelers more time to get the upgraded driver’s licenses for TSA screening.
The enforcement date was originally first set for 2008, but has since been delayed multiple times.
Conceived as part of 2005 legislation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Real ID law requires people to show security-enhanced IDs to pass through airport security checkpoints or to enter certain federal facilities, such as military bases, once the regulations begin to be enforced. Travelers will also be able to use passports or certain other federal documents as an alternative to a Real ID.
Sometimes called the Star Card, because most states are marking their Real ID cards with a gold or black star in the top right corner, it must include an encoded “machine readable zone,” like a passport’s, with a person’s scannable information. Many state driver’s licenses already have this feature. The key thing that makes the card special is that the federal government requires you to provide certain identifying documentation to obtain one from your state.
All states now offer the Real ID, after some significant delays. While some states and Washington, D.C., have been issuing Real ID cards for several years with little fanfare, others only recently made Real ID cards available — Oklahoma and Oregon began issuing them last summer, for instance. Only 43 percent of current state-issued IDs comply with Real ID requirements.
Some state lawmakers had requested that the federal government delay the deadline for compliance, citing many states’ suspension of in-person services during the pandemic. Real ID paperwork needs to be brought to DMV offices in person.
Meanwhile, there’s been widespread confusion over how to get the cards and what they are, so here are a few basics:
To get a Real ID, you need to present documents to your motor vehicle department proving your age and identity, Social Security number and address. That generally means bringing a birth certificate or passport, a Social Security card or tax form such as a W-2, and two proofs of address. If you’ve changed your name through marriage, you’ll need a marriage certificate.
Although the Real ID is also a driver’s license, the old-style driver’s license is still lawful for driving and still available as an option in many states. Some, such as Arizona and Kentucky, are trying to make this clear by calling the Real ID a “voluntary traveler ID.”
At some point after May 3, 2023, a regular driver’s license won’t be sufficient to get a passenger through security and onto a plane. The Real ID technically is not mandatory because you can instead use other approved documents, including a passport, passport card, U.S. military ID, Enhanced ID (offered in some states) or an ID from the federal government’s Trusted Traveler Program, such as a global Entry Card.
For international travel, you will still need a passport.
If you have questions, each state will likely have a website to assist you if you have questions about what your specific state will require to issue the Real ID card.
This information provided to you by the AARP and the DCPatriot as a public service.