What You Need to Know About the REAL ID Act
Attention Domestic Travelers: The final phase of the REAL ID Act began rolling out in February 2018. Congress initially passed the REAL ID Act back in 2005 to establish stricter security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses. In order to travel domestically individuals will need to present either a REAL ID or another approved form of identification.
What is a REAL ID?
A REAL ID is a normal driver’s license that requires a minimum level of security standards prior to license issuance. Minimum issuance standards include the ability to provide photo identification, documentation proving date of birth and social security number. Under the act, all licenses must be equipped with machine-readable technology, and for most states, a gold or black star in the upper right corner signifies that an ID is compliant. The nuances of these requirements can be found in the official text of the act.
So what does this mean?
Luckily, the majority of states are already compliant with these standards or have been issued an extension until Oct. 10, 2018, so residents of most states/territories can continue to use their driver’s licenses for domestic travel.
As of this writing, American Samoa did not get an extension. If extension approvals are not granted by Jan. 22, 2018, individuals with these driver’s licenses will need an additional form of identification to travel domestically. Alternative forms of identification include passports, military IDs, permanent resident cards, Enhanced Driver’s License (EDLs) or trusted traveler cards like NEXUS or Global Entry.
What else do I need to know?
Right now, residents of states that are compliant or have been granted extensions can continue to use their licenses as usual. Extensions will be granted to states on a year-by-year basis, but as of Oct. 1, 2020, everyone will need to present a compliant REAL ID (or other approved form of identification) for domestic travel.
For most compliant states, residents can apply for a REAL ID, even if their current driver’s license is still valid. Check your state’s department of motor vehicles website to confirm and to find out which documents are needed to complete this process.
The Department of Homeland Security has made it easy to check on the status of your state’s compliance.