For most states, the REAL ID–compliant driver’s license will have a gold or black star in the upper right corner.

Air traveler identification requirements are set to change. Do you have what it takes to get through airport security?

Reports that your driver’s license soon will no longer be good enough to get you through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints when you fly have been greatly exaggerated. 

Yes, a 2005 law known as REAL ID required all states to meet a new set of security standards with IDs, prompting many states to change the way they produce and distribute driver licenses. And, yes, the original deadline for states to comply with this act was January 22, 2018—a date emblazoned on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posters in airports across the country.

But most states have complied with REAL ID already, and the DHS has granted the 20-odd states that aren’t in compliance an extension until October 1, 2020. This means that despite what you might have read elsewhere, travelers currently have nothing to worry about regarding the identification they bring to the airport.

At least not yet.

Again, all of that changes in 2020. After October 1 of that year, every traveler will need to present a REAL ID–compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel. In some cases, this could mean you’ll need to get a new ID.

According to TSA spokesperson Brian McNeal, after the extended deadline, travelers who do not have a license or identification card from a compliant state will be asked to provide alternate acceptable identification. If a traveler cannot provide an acceptable form of identification, he or she will not be permitted through the security checkpoint and therefore cannot fly.

article continues below ad

Will your ID work after October 1, 2020? The DHS also has compiled a list of states that are compliant with REAL ID at the DHS website. Once your state has complied, you can use any of the forms of identification listed at

The easiest way to avoid a hassle? Just bring a valid passport to the airport.

>>Next: Our Best Points and Miles Tips of 2017