Think of the REAL I.D. as a country-wide driver’s license revamp. After 9/11, the federal government decided that a minimum set of standards needed to be applied across all states when they issue driver’s licenses. The goal is to tighten security at federal locations and make it more difficult to forge identity documents. This will also introduce new technology at all TSA checkpoints, making it easier for the government to save scans of each card and transfer them electronically. Think of it as bringing the TSA system into the 21st century.
The REAL I.D. Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and a phased roll out of the plan began in 2013.
So when do I need it?
To travel domestically, starting October 1, 2020, US residents will need either a REAL I.D. compliant license or an alternatively acceptable document to get through a TSA checkpoint.
There are exceptions for Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington whose residents have a valid Enhanced Driver’s Licenses.
All drivers licenses issued after October 1, 2020 will, by default, be REAL I.D. compliant.
What are the other acceptable documents?
If you travel domestically with one of these documents, you will NOT need to also have a REAL I.D.
- U.S. Passport
- Passport card
- Trusted Traveler Cards: Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST
- Military I.D.
- Permanent Resident Card
- Foreign government-issued passport
- See full list here
Can I use it when traveling abroad?
No. REAL I.D.s are only valid for domestic travel (just like a driver’s license) and will not give you access to cross into Mexico or Canada.
How do I get one?
Visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL I.D.. At a minimum, you 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.
States may impose additional requirements, so check with your state’s driver’s licensing agency website before visiting them in person.
How do I know if I already have one?
Real I.D. compliant licenses will have the following markings on them.
What about my children?
Minors (under the age of 18) do not need to provide identification when traveling with a companion in the U.S.
Tell me more about these security standards
Basically the federal government is asking each state to follow a minimum set of standards when issuing a driver’s license, and these new restrictions will tighten security when accessing a federal facility, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, and entering nuclear power plants (maybe that one won’t apply to you so much).
It will require the individual states to validate the applicants’ photo identity document, documentation of the person’s date of birth, proof of social security account number (or verification that they’re not eligible), lawful status, and documentation showing the person’s name and residence.
The design of the REAL I.D.s will make it harder to forge false identity cards by including “markers” that are only detectable using the TSA’s technology.
For more information on the REAL I.D. and how to obtain one, please visit tsa.gov.