You may have seen “REAL ID” in the news or at the airport. But what is it? What do you need to know about it? Do you need one? How will it impact your travel? All these questions are important to ask so that you can be prepared and avoid any travel delays or problems.
What Is REAL ID?
REAL ID is the result of an act passed by Congress in 2005. Congress was attempting to cut down on domestic terrorism threats following 9/11. They decided that across-the-board, minimum security standards needed to be put in place for issuing driver’s licenses and other ID cards that normally are overseen by the state and used for air travel.
Getting a REAL ID requires more paperwork than you might need for a traditional license in the past. Additionally, REAL IDs are made using advanced technology that makes them more difficult to fake.
Of course, rolling a country-wide change to identification out across all states takes some time, which is why, 14 years after the act was passed, it’s still not totally solidified. However, by Oct. 1, 2020, every state must be in compliance with the act. That means starting Oct. 1, 2020, you’ll need a REAL ID in order to fly domestically.
I Have A New Driver’s License — Do I Need Another One?
Maybe not. If you have a driver’s license with a black or gold star, a black or gold circle with an outline of the star in the center, or a bear in the upper right corner of the card, then you have a REAL ID. To know where you stand, the best bet is to check with your state government.
If your new license says “Not for Federal Identification” or “Federal Limits Apply,” then that means it is not a REAL ID. You won’t be able to use it for flying domestically starting next October.
To make matters even more confusing, some states are issuing driver’s licenses that are a form of REAL ID, in that they’re not normal driver’s licenses, but you can’t use them for air travel. This is called an Enhanced Driver’s License.
Note that you can only use them for getting into the Caribbean, Canada or Mexico via land or sea (so a good option for someone taking a cruise, maybe). You cannot use them for air travel. States issuing Enhanced Driver’s Licenses include Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington State.
Also, did you physically get your new license at a DMV office and did you present the clerk with your birth certificate, passport, social security card and/or other forms of identification proof? If not, you probably didn’t get a REAL ID.
Bottom line — if you’re not 100 percent sure that you have a REAL ID, it’s best to check. States aren’t giving out the REAL ID licenses automatically, so you have to actively choose to get one. Check out the Department of Homeland Security’s page for more information.
I Have A Passport. Do I Still Need A REAL ID?
Nope. If you have a passport or another form of TSA-approved identification, then you can still fly domestically using that. You also don’t need a REAL ID if you’re flying and you’re under 18 years of age.
If, though, you don’t have a passport or the equivalent, you’re going to need to get that REAL ID in order to fly domestically.
What Can I Expect When Flying Next Year?
If you are aware of the REAL ID requirements and you have yourself covered ahead of any flights taking place after Oct. 1, 2020, then you’re in the clear. However, that doesn’t mean that flying shortly after the REAL ID deadline will be easy.
The U.S. Travel Association released a statement regarding a survey conducted that said three out of four of all Americans are totally unprepared for the REAL ID deadline. Furthermore, millions of people could be prevented from boarding their planes shortly after the deadline falls.
Currently, 72 percent of Americans either don’t have a REAL ID or are unsure whether or not they have a REAL ID. Plus, 57 percent said they didn’t even know about the deadline. The U.S. Travel Association also said that, if REAL ID standards are fully enforced starting Oct. 1, 2020, as many as 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA that day.
Not only would this cost the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending, but it means a lot of frustrations at the airport and likely longer lines at TSA for those who do have their REAL ID.
In order to minimize the impact of travelers not being prepared for next year’s deadline, the U.S. Travel Association recommends that Congress amends its REAL ID Act to allow for mobile REAL ID applications, making it easier for travelers to get their REAL ID without going to the DMV. It also asks for it to allow for other forms of travel identification, such as enrollment in a program like TSA PreCheck, to stand in for a REAL ID.