Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency declaration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended the Real ID enforcement deadline for one year, to October 1, 2021.
Real ID is an updated driver’s license or identification card that allows travelers to fly commercially and enter federal facilities.
Here are some key things to know about Real ID:
- What is Real ID and when do I need a Real ID? Beginning October 1, 2021, your driver’s license must be Real ID-compliant if you want to use it to fly within the U.S. A Real ID is a driver’s license or identification card that meets certain minimum security standards. It was established by a law passed by Congress in 2005 aimed at fighting global terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in which the hijackers used fraudulent driver’s licenses to board airplanes. The law prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. For example, you need a Real ID to pass U.S. Transportation Security Administration checkpoints when you board a plane or enter gates at military bases or other government facilities. You can check your state’s status on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s site, which has a color-coded clickable map.
- What are the Real ID requirements? Real ID-compliant driver’s license documentation and appointment requirements vary from state to state, which can be confusing. You can find the requirements on your state licensing agency or motor vehicle department website. Some states even provide an interactive checklist to walk you through the requirements, step by step. At the end, you’ll have a customized checklist of which documents to bring to the DMV with you to prove your identity and residency when you go to get your Real ID. As someone whose parents were born in another country, I found the checklist can be a timesaver and prevent a wasted trip to the DMV.
- How long does it take to get a Real ID? Replacing your driver’s license with a Real ID isn’t always as simple as a quick trip to the DMV. Applicants who don’t have the proper documentation can be turned away, and even if you have all the required documentation, it can take a few weeks to process. If you want your driver’s license to be Real ID-compliant, remember to make the upgrade after the COVID-19 emergency is lifted but before the rush. State licensing agencies and motor vehicle departments had expected long lines and wait times in the months leading up to the original enforcement date of October 2020.
- How do I know if a have a Real ID? Many states identify their Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses with a star (either gold or black) in the upper right corner of the card, which indicates the licensee has undergone the required ID verification steps. California’s has a star inside of an image of a bear.
- Can I fly without a Real ID-compliant driver’s license? If you want to fly domestically after October 1, 2021, you can use other acceptable identification – for example, your U.S. passport or a U.S. military ID. Just remember to bring that ID to the airport. Your old-style driver’s license is still lawful for driving and buying age-related products.
Nearly 15 years after its conception, the countdown to Real ID is almost here. In fact, the TSA has a countdown clock on its website. While some states such as Oregon and Oklahoma are still working on it and won’t begin offering the cards until later, it’s a good idea to plan ahead to the avoid crowds at your local licensing agency. After all, if your license is not compliant, and you don’t have another acceptable form of ID, you may have trouble getting through airport security.
And if you travel frequently – alone for business or on vacations with your family – and want to know more about your options when faced with an accident or illness while traveling, check out How not to get stuck in a hospital far from home.
For more information on insurance coverages related to travel, contact your independent insurance agent.
Neither The Cincinnati Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer legal advice. Consult with your attorney about your specific situation. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.