From wearing masks to scaled-back service, plenty has changed in air travel in the last year due to the pandemic. But one more big change is coming this fall: You’ll need a new, federally approved driver’s license called a Real ID for any domestic flight.
Barring another extension, these new Real ID requirements are currently set to go live Oct. 1, 2021. These are a new form of ID with some extra hoops to jump through when applying for or renewing a driver’s license to prove your identity. They stem from a 2005 federal law meant to combat terrorism and identity fraud after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Real ID requirements for domestic flights have been looming for years, but they’ve been constantly pushed back as many states resisted falling in line. Just last year, that deadline was pushed back from a year October 2020 to 2021. But now, another extension seems unlikely.
With just six months to go, it’s worth getting your Real ID sooner rather than later. These new IDs have been available in many states for almost a decade, while others – like Minnesota, California, and Oregon – took far longer to get on board and start issuing the new licenses. But these are now available in every state across the nation, and you’ll need them (or a Real ID alternative!) to board any domestic flight as of Oct. 1, 2021.
Who Needs a Real ID to Fly
In a word? Everyone.
The Department of Homeland Security makes it clear: Once these new requirements take effect, you won’t be able to get into the airport without one. Read up on more frequently asked questions about Real ID on the DHS site.
The only exception is the same one that exists for IDs today: Children under 18 who are traveling with an adult companion will not need to present a Real ID at the airport.
How to Get a Real ID to Fly
Today, you can get a Real ID-compliant license from your local DMV in every state.
The cost of getting a Real ID will vary state by state. Some states have reduced the costs to renew an older license if it expires after the full Real ID requirements take effect next fall. These new IDs are almost identical the standard driver’s license you’re using today – they’ve simply got a golden star, denoting that they’re approved for federal use.
And while you simply go to your local DMV as usual, applying for a new, compliant license is a bit different. Namely, you need to provide some extra documentation.
- One document proving your identity, like a valid passport or certified birth certificate.
- One document with your Social Security number, like your Social Security card or a federal W-2 form.
- Two documents proving your current address, like a valid driver’s license, a canceled check, or utility company or bank statements issued within the last 90 days.
More than 150 million Americans nationwide have already received a Real ID, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
If you live in Minnesota, there’s an even easier option. Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport set up a first-of-its-kind application center right inside the airport. Just set up an appointment and knock out your application before or after your next flight.
Of course, you may not need a Real ID after all. You could use a passport to board domestic flights – then you wouldn’t need a Real ID. You’ll still need that passport for any international journey, after all. And if you’ve got Global Entry, your Global Entry card will work as well.
Read more on the alternatives you can keep using instead of getting a Real ID.
Like it or not, Real ID is coming. As of now, those requirements to fly domestically are set to take effect Oct. 1, 2021.
Make sure you’ve got your Real ID handy, get the process started, or have an alternative lined up come October. If you don’t, you won’t be getting through airport security.