Real ID is not a national identification card. It does not create a federal database of driver’s license information…the purpose of Real ID is to make our identity documents more consistent and secure.


A star, usually in the upper right corner, signifies Real ID. [Dept Homeland Security]

Effective October 1, 2020*, Americans planning to fly on a domestic flight must show an enhanced form of identification, a “Real ID,” like a current driver’s license or a state-issued identification card. If you do not have a Real ID, you will need to show another accepted document before boarding the plane, such as an unexpired passport.

However, even if you don’t have immediate plans for domestic air travel, it is a good idea to obtain your Real ID sooner rather than later.

You can apply for a Real ID at your state’s department of motor vehicles using the same documentation that is required when applying for a driver’s license. This includes:

• One document proving your identity
• One document proving your lawful status in the United States
• One document providing your social security number
• Two documents proving your residency

Examples of documents that are often used to satisfactorily meet these requirements are:

• Unexpired passport
• Certified birth certificate
• SSA 1099 Form or a W-2 Form
• Social security card
• Bill or invoice containing your name and address (utility, rent, etc.)

If you already have a valid driver’s license you may renew it, the new driver’s license will automatically be upgraded to a Real ID.

The requirements to renew a driver’s license vary from state to state. If you are 70 or beyond, check online to find out if there are any special requirements where you live. Some states will want you to take a vision test, a written test, and/or a driving test.

A final word of caution: don’t let your driver’s license lapse for more than 180 days, otherwise you will need to pass a written driver’s test. This test can be tricky. If you need to take it, be sure to read a current driver’s manual ahead of time. To access a manual, you can search online or contact your local department of motor vehicles.

*Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have extended the deadline requiring a Real ID until October 1, 2021.


By Savvy Senior

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4 thoughts on “Do You Have a Real ID?

  1. Thank you, Gene, for this post. This is closer to a national ID document which is something we should have in the USA just like many, most, other countries have, certainly in Europe and in Mexico that I know of personally. A national ID document makes so many other official transactions so much easier in our bureaucratic organizations. Thanks agin.

  2. Thanks for the reminder Gene. We all need to keep up to date on our personal paper work. I don’t plan to fly in the near future,however, things often happen that we do not plan for. It’s good to know that someone is watching out for us.

  3. On the Department of Homeland security the effective date is now pushed out to October 2121.

  4. Jackie,
    Thanks for the sharp eye! The response to the initial asterisk was dropped inadvertently. It just talks about states. Your telling us about homeland security is the latest.

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