Updated on March 27, 2020: The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021.

Updated on March 24, 2020: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the October 1, 2020, deadline has been extended. No new implementation date has been set. USTOA will provide updates as soon as they are announced.

Updated on February 20, 2020: The Department of Homeland Security has made the decision to allow electronic submissions of the documents that are required to obtain a REAL ID, a positive step ahead of the deadline.

In order to board a commercially regulated aircraft on October 1, 2020, travelers must possess a REAL ID compliant travel document. In order to obtain a compliant REAL ID or to ensure that your current travel documentation is REAL ID compliant, please visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles or utilize your state’s or territory’s online resources before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

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Airline travel can be stressful for new and experienced travelers alike. Perhaps the most important part of any trip is ensuring that appropriate documentation and identification is in hand. For domestic travel, this generally means a valid U.S. driver’s license, or state identification card, while passports are required for international travel.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency housed within the Department of Homeland Security, has been speaking to an issue relating to “REAL ID”. REAL ID represents the federal government’s attempt to create uniform minimum security standards for all U.S. driver’s licenses and identification cards in order to access Federal facilities, enter nuclear power plants, and board federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Creating these uniform standards is laudable and will ultimately make travelling throughout the U.S. safer. However, it is important that Americans are aware that their current form of identification, whether it is a driver’s license or state identification card, may not suffice to move through airport or other security settings, particularly with regard to traveling within the U.S. or elsewhere. The traveling public needs to be aware that updating travel documentation in the coming year will be necessary for those who are not already compliant. Otherwise, it is possible that come October 1, 2020 travelers could risk being turned away at the airport. To reaffirm, every American is currently required to possess a REAL ID compliant license or identification card by October 1, 2020 in order to, among other things, board a commercially regulated aircraft. Travelers without compliant identification could be turned away at the airport.

In the past, deadlines have been set on REAL ID compliance, and those deadlines have been kicked down the line. For the current deadline, recent reports indicate that this deadline of October 1, 2020 may hold. It is recommended that American travelers proactively check to see whether their identification is compliant to eliminate the possibility of added travel-related stress.

The good news is that anyone who holds a valid U.S. passport already has a REAL ID compliant form of identification. As of September 2019, 47 states, the District of Columbia, and three United States territories are compliant. Oregon, Oklahoma, and the Northern Mariana Islands are currently under an extension to update their licenses while New Jersey and American Samoa are under review. All states and territories are on track to be compliant before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

The bad news is that many of the states have only just begun issuing compliant licenses and state identification cards, meaning that many travelers may still hold a non-REAL ID compliant license. Therefore, it is imperative that all travelers visit their local Department of Motor Vehicles or utilize their state’s or territory’s online resources before the October 1, 2020 deadline to ensure that their travel driver’s license or identification card is compliant for domestic travel. Again, it is important to note that a valid passport is REAL ID compliant.

Unfortunately, not every state and territory have the same requirements for a REAL ID, meaning that the licenses or state identification cards will still not look completely uniform and the documents necessary to attain a REAL ID compliant license or identification card may vary. As mentioned previously, each traveler should visit their state’s or territory’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, travelers must provide documentation showing:

1)     Full Legal Name;

2)     Date of Birth;

3)     Social Security Number;

4)     Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and

5)     Lawful Status.

REAL ID compliant licenses and identification cards are identified by the presence of a star in the top right-hand corner of the card similar to the below:

USTOA urges individuals across America to ensure their identification is compliant and to take the appropriate steps to achieve compliance, if necessary. We strongly caution against reliance on the possibility of an extended deadline.

More general information on REAL ID can be found here.

More information on each state can be found here.