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Real ID Act: What Is the Big Deal about This Act?

  • Way app
  • Xavier Sabastian
  • 5 minutes

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If you like to travel, you may have heard about the REAL ID Act.¬†At the heart of the problem is that travelers need some enhanced ID to get through airport security. It is a new kind of driver’s license that Americans can get.

But what is a REAL ID driver’s license, and who needs one? How is it different from a normal driver’s license from the state? What you need to know is listed below.

Real ID

What is Real ID?

The federal government uses Real IDs to ensure that U.S. driver’s licenses meet a minimum level of security. The deadline to obtain a Real ID driver’s license has been extended to May 2023. You should still apply for one as soon as possible.

You don’t want to book flights for a vacation, business trip, or, even worse, an emergency only to find out that getting this document will take some time. To get this document, you’ll need to show proof at the DMV (or another licensing agency). This could take a while if you still need one. Then, when the compliance date arrives, you’ll be able to fly with your new card without any problems.

Now is a good time to make the switch if you renew your driver’s license in the next couple of years.

What’s the deal with the Real ID Act?

After the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to set rules for identification cards. That includes licenses to drive. In addition, the law says that anyone who wants to enter a federal facility, like a power plant or a commercial flight within the United States, must have a valid ID card.

This Act was supposed to start being used on October 1, 2020. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the law was enforced in October 2021 instead of October 2020.

After the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to set rules for ID cards. That includes licenses to drive.

What makes a Real ID license different?

A REAL ID driver’s license will look the same as any other license your state gives. However, the card has a black or gold star, a gold or black circle with a white star inside, or a gold bear with a star inside. Even though they don’t have the star, some states, like Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont, consider Enhanced Driver’s Licenses to be compliant with the Act and will accept them.

What makes a REAL ID driver’s license a better form of ID is not something you can see. Instead, security agencies can scan the card to check the person’s identity differently.

Fake Id GIF by Why Don't We


Who has to have a Real ID license?

When the law was enacted in October 2021, anyone who wanted to get into a federal building, take a commercial flight within the United States, visit an armed forces base, or do anything related to the government will need better identification. 

Domestic travelers or people who want to get into a federal building may be able to use a valid passport, passport card, military ID, or an enhanced driver’s license. With a regular driver’s license, you can still vote, drive, use the post office, go to court, and get federal benefits.

How to Get a Driver’s License with a Real ID?

About 40% of people with a driver’s license or ID card have gotten a REAL ID-compliant replacement. There are about 110 million of them. If you are one of the many who still need to switch to the new REAL ID driver’s license, the process is similar to getting a regular state driver’s license.

The DMV in your state is in charge of giving out REAL ID licenses, so call or go online to find out how it works in your area. 

The DMV in your state is in charge of giving out REAL ID licenses, so call or go online to find out how it works in your area. 

Even though each state has its way of doing things, you will need to:

  • Proof of who you are
  • Social Security Number
  • Proof of where you live
  • Proof of your name change (if applicable)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need to show the following:

  • A valid Employment Authorization Card (EAD)
  • Valid Permanent Resident Card¬†
  • Valid foreign passport with a current U.S. visa.

What is the deadline to comply with the Real ID Act?

Real IDs will be required at airports, federal buildings, and nuclear power plants starting on May 3, 2023. If you are 18 or older and want to fly on a domestic flight, you will need a driver’s license, ID card, or another form of ID that meets the Act. In addition, you need to show off your old driver’s license.

If you don’t have a Real ID driver’s license, ID card, or another form of accepted ID, you won’t be able to get through airport security checkpoints or board your flight.

You will still need a passport to travel outside of the country. You can also use your passport instead of a Real ID to prove who you are at a TSA checkpoint. But after May 3, 2023, if you want to use your driver’s license to prove who you are, it will have to be a Real ID.

sci-fi GIF


What is the cost to get this new document?

The price of a Real ID varies from state to state. In some states, it may cost the same to get a Real ID as it does to renew a driver’s license. In some states, you can upgrade your regular driver’s license to a Real ID for an extra fee, even if it’s not time for you to get a new one. Some states have a one-time fee and a fee to renew the license.

Here’s more info on¬†top-rated airport parking,¬†the best parking spots in your city, affordable¬†auto insurance, easy¬†auto refinance, and¬†high-quality car washes near you.


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