Editor's Note: As of March 26th, 2020, the deadline for REAL ID has been extended to October 1st, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This article has been updated accordingly.
October 1st, 2021 marks an important deadline for travelers in the United States who plan on flying domestic. The TSA is strongly urging all travelers 18 years of age or older, to update their driver’s license and identification cards to REAL ID well in advance of their trip.
What is a REAL ID?
In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which recommended the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.”
Since then, the Government established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards have been established. Once these REAL IDs become the standard form of identification, federal agencies like the TSA will not accept licenses and identification cards that have not been upgraded to REAL ID.
How Do I Know If I Have a REAL ID?
Luckily, this is very easy to determine. REAL ID compliant cards are marked with a star in the upper right corner as well as additional security features, while standard driver’s license and identification cards do not have them.
How Do I Get A REAL ID?
When applying for a REAL ID, residents must provide more documentation than previously required. I updated to REAL ID in July by providing my:
- Valid U.S. Passport
- Social Security Card
- Jury duty summons (issued within last 60 days) for first proof of residency
- Auto insurance policy for current year for second proof of residency
I also had to have a new photo taken as well as complete an eye test. Each state requires different forms of ID when updating a driver’s license or identification card to REAL ID, so you check your state’s guidelines.
Thankfully, there is a AAA office located near the SeatGuru offices, so I filled out the REAL ID form online and stopped in one afternoon after work, simple as that! If you are a AAA member, check your local AAA location to see if they process REAL ID updates.
What Happens If I Don’t Update by October 1, 2021?
The TSA will not accept a standard driver’s license or ID card starting on that date. If you plan to fly within the U.S. on a standard driver’s license or ID card, you will have to present a second form of acceptable identification, such as a U.S. passport, passport card, military ID, permanent resident card, and another such option like a Global Entry traveler card to TSA when going through security. Visit the TSA website for a complete list of acceptable documents.
Why Should I Update to REAL ID Now?
As we get closer to the October 1, 2021 deadline, you can expect your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or AAA to become inundated with people updating to REAL ID, which will mean longer and longer wait times. Also, with today’s fast-paced society, you might lose track of time and suddenly realize that you are standing in front of a TSA agent who is not accepting your standard driver's license or ID card. If you don’t have a valid alternative form of identification on you, you will miss your flight.
Filling out the REAL ID form online takes only a couple of minutes, and waiting at the DMV or AAA won’t be as bad as being stuck at an airport and watching your vacation or business flight leave without you.
For more information, visit the TSA’s FAQ page and check with your state’s DMV or local AAA office.