Updated: What U.S. Travelers Need to Know About REAL ID

By Amanda Wowk

May 24, 2023

More news for U.S. travelers: The deadline for REAL ID has once again been extended—this time to May 7, 2025.

A REAL ID?, you think. Remind me what that is, and why I need it?

Why do I need a REAL ID?

In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to enact the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” In doing so, minimum security standards were established, prohibiting federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet the new standards. For domestic travelers, this means that the state-issued ID you’re used to presenting to a TSA agent may not be acceptable come May 2025.

How do I know if my current ID is compliant?

A REAL ID will generally be marked by a star. You can also visit the Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID page to confirm whether your state meets the REAL ID requirements. 

REAL IDImage courtesy of TSA.gov

What if I don’t have a REAL ID?

If you don’t have a REAL ID, your state isn’t compliant, or you generally don’t have a driver’s license, you can still fly domestically—but you’ll need another form of acceptable identification.

Here’s a list of approved IDs (as of publication):

  • REAL ID driver’s license or other REAL ID compliant state photo identity card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential (TWIC®)
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

So, I can use my passport?

If you’re already a passport-carrying traveler, you can use that form of ID instead of your driver’s license when you travel domestically. Easy peasy.

Additionally, if you have an enhanced driver’s license—that is, a license from states such as Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, or Washington with an embedded RFID chip that links to your essential personal ID information—you do not need a REAL ID to fly domestically. This type of license will be acceptable for travel come May 2025.

How do I obtain a REAL ID?

If you need to get a REAL ID, be aware that applications require enhanced proof of identity. Requirements vary from state to state, however, in general, you’ll need to present two documents proving state residency, plus proof of your social security number (SSN). In California, for example, you’ll need to present one identity document showing your date of birth, true full name, and identity; one document that contains your full SSN; and two documents that contain your residence (street) address. 

Take the guesswork out of what you’ll need to obtain a REAL ID by contacting your state’s driver’s license agency.