After several extensions, the time has finally come—the Real ID deadline is officially within a year now. Procrastinators, we’re looking at you.
Originally, air travelers were going to need to have a Real ID by October 1, 2020, in order to board a domestic flight. But that deadline has been bumped a couple times during the pandemic and is now May 3, 2023.
By May 3, 2023, all U.S. travelers 18 and older (kids traveling domestically with an adult don’t need to provide identification) will be required to present a driver’s license to U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents that is considered Real ID–compliant when passing through airport security in order to be able to fly domestically.
If you don’t have a compliant ID by that date, you will have to show another acceptable form of identification to fly within the United States, such as a valid passport, permanent resident card, or DHS trusted traveler program card, such as Global Entry or Nexus.
All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of five U.S. territories are now issuing Real ID–compliant licenses and identification cards. (American Samoa is the only territory not yet issuing them.) So the vast majority of Americans should be able to obtain one.
What’s a Real ID again?
A Real ID is a newer form of driver’s license or identification card that meets certain minimum security standards established by the Real ID Act in 2005 (a response to recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission following the attacks on September 11, 2001). The new standards are intended to ensure that identification cards are more secure.
How do I know if I have a Real ID?
According to TSA, compliant cards are typically marked with a star (either gold or black) in the upper portion of the card. Compliant California IDs are marked with a star inside of an image of a bear. The agency recommends that people who aren’t sure whether they have a compliant ID contact their state driver’s license agency about how to obtain a compliant card.
How do I get a Real ID?
Each state handles the issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards independently, and each state has its own Real ID requirements. Thus, the requirements vary slightly from state to state. But typically, the main difference in applying for and getting a Real ID–compliant license versus a noncompliant one lies in the documentation you need to provide.
For instance, to get a Real ID in California, you will need to make an appointment at a California Department of Motor Vehicles office (you cannot obtain a Real ID online), provide an identifying document such as a passport or birth certificate, proof of your Social Security number such as your Social Security card or a W-2 form, and proof of California residency, as outlined on the Real ID explainer portal on the California DMV website.
Massachusetts offers a convenient Real ID answers tool that allows users to follow a series of questions online to determine whether they should get a Real ID–compliant driver’s license or a standard driver’s license and the different processes required to obtain one or the other.
Each state has a similar explainer and a quick online search for your state and “Real ID” should put you on track to getting all the necessary details.
This story was originally published on March 27, 2020 and has been updated to include current information.