After September 11th, the REAL ID Act was created to strengthen security standards for government-issued IDs. Congress passed the Act in May of 2005, however, it has taken over a decade to fully enact. The previous deadline was October 1, 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made this deadline unrealistic and unattainable. So, the timeline was pushed forward and the Act is currently set to go into effect October 1, 2021.
The REAL ID Act is an Act of Congress that made changes to federal laws concerning security, authentication, and issuing procedures for state driver’s licenses, identification documents and some immigration documents.
The Act is based on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to the federal government that there should be minimum application standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. Prior to the Act, each state had its own rules and regulations for ID applications. The new laws set a federal standard that all states must follow, instead of separate standards for each state. This was done to ensure that only qualified individuals would be able to apply for and receive government-issued IDs. Some of the changes also make it more difficult to produce fake IDs that will pass security checks.
Starting in October of 2021, federal agencies will no longer be able to accept licenses and IDs from states that have not made the required changes and are not REAL ID compliant.
REAL ID implementation
The REAL ID Act does the following:
- Standardizes the requirements for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards.
- Modifies visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
- Funds additional reports and projects for border security.
- Introduces new rules that cover “delivery bonds” (bail for non-citizens who have been released pending hearings).
- Strengthens the laws concerning asylum and deportation of illegal aliens for terrorism.
- Waives the laws that interfere the construction of physical barriers at the borders.
The Act’s end goal is to prevent acts of terrorism via U.S. airports by increasing the requirements for applying for IDs that are commonly used at airport security.
As a result, the Department of Motor Vehicles will now ask for additional proof of residency, as well as a Social Security Number, in order to process a driver’s license or state ID application.
Changes have also been made to the IDs themselves, and they now incorporate more modern technological elements that make them difficult to forge.
It has been a difficult change to implement, since each state has different regulations that need to be updated. However, all states must be in compliance by October 1, 2021, and all U.S. citizens and residents must meet the REAL ID requirements to get a new REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID card.
Do I have to get a Real ID?
Since the REAL ID ACT was created to improve national security, many of the changes will affect anyone who flies or needs access to government facilities.
Starting October 1, 2021, all U.S. residents must present a REAL ID compliant form of identification to TSA at airport checkpoints.
So, if you will be flying or need access to government facilities, you must make sure that you have either a REAL ID or one of the following documents:
- Valid U.S. passport
- Military ID
- Another federally-approved document
Beginning October 1, 2021, if your driver’s license or state ID is not a REAL ID, it will be considered a Federal Non-Compliant card, which:
- Cannot be used to board a plane
- Cannot be used to enter a secure federal facility
- On its own, may not be acceptable ID to purchase a firearm
However, you will still be able to use a standard ID for general identification, and your standard driver’s license will still allow you to operate a vehicle. So, if you don’t need access to a federal facility and you won’t be flying domestically, you don’t have to get a REAL ID right away.
You can also just use your U.S. passport or U.S. passport card, since it is already REAL ID compliant. Keep in mind that, even if you have a REAL ID, you will still need a U.S. passport to travel internationally.
What does a Real ID look like?
Your current ID may actually be REAL ID compliant, since some states have already been compliant for several years and currently issue REAL IDs. Most states include a gold or black star in the top right corner of their REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses or identification cards. However, a few states do not. So you should look up a picture of your state’s REAL ID cards and see if yours matches.
Requirements to get a Real ID
If you do not have a REAL ID, you will need to visit your local DMV office in person and bring all of the required documents with you to apply. We’ve listed out the steps you should take below.
- Go in-person or schedule an appointment with your local DMV
- Bring the following documents with you:
- Proof of identity:
- certified copy of your birth certificate (abstract birth certificates are not acceptable)
- U.S. passport
- employment authorization document
- permanent resident card
- foreign passport with an approved form I-94
- Proof of your Social Security Number
- Social Security card
- W-2 or pay-stub with full name and SSN
- Proof of residency (2 different documents required)
- rental or lease agreement
- mortgage bill
- utility bill
- employment, medical, or school document
- If applicable, an original or certified copy of a name change document
- marriage certificate
- divorce decree
- Proof of identity:
- Make sure to bring payment for the processing fees (cost varies by state)
Currently, every state is now REAL ID compliant according to the Department of Homeland Security.
You can check your state’s status here: Real ID compliant states