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Warning: You’ll Need a New Real ID to Fly in 6 Months

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You've been warned again and again and again over the years, but here's the latest reminder: Exactly six months from today, you'll need a different federally approved ID dubbed “Real ID” to board domestic flights in the U.S.

After more than a decade of delays and several extensions, Real ID requirements are currently set to take effect May 3, 2023. Of course, there's no ruling out yet another extension by the federal government that could push this requirement back yet again. But that hasn't happened yet … so for now, federal officials are still planning to move ahead with Real ID in six months time.

“On May 3, 2023, U.S. travelers must be REAL ID compliant to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities,” the Department of Homeland Security currently says on a statement on its website.

That means you'll need to have one of these new federally approved – or one of several alternatives like your passport or a Global Entry card – in order to continue flying within the U.S.

This new ID law was passed way back in 2005 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to combat terrorism and identity fraud. Real IDs come with some additional hoops to jump through when applying for or renewing a driver's license – they're marked with a gold star showing they're federally approved.

But while Real ID requirements for air travel have been looming for years, they've been constantly pushed back as many states resisted falling in line. Now, they're available in every U.S. state. As the pandemic led to office closures, federal officials delayed the effective date once again from October 2021 all the way back to May 2023.

Thus far, there's been no talk about another extension. So until you hear otherwise, assume this takes effect next May.


Who Will Need 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.

And now, the countdown is on. Barring another extension – which seems unlikely, though not impossible – Real ID requirements will go live on May 3, 2023.


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. These new IDs are almost identical to the standard driver's license you're using today – they've simply got a golden star, denoting that they're approved for federal use.

Real ID to fly 

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.

If you live in Minnesota, there's an even easier option. A few years ago, 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.

Can I Use My Passport Instead? Or Global Entry?

Of course, you may not need a Real ID after all.

You could use a passport (or passport card) to board any flight – 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.


What if I Have CLEAR?

CLEAR is one of several programs that can get you through airport security lines quicker. One of the perks of CLEAR vs TSA PreCheck is that with CLEAR, you don't need to show your TSA agent your ID.

That's the whole point of CLEAR: You verify your identity through an iris scan or fingerprint, then skip to the front of the line. Real ID requirements might throw a hitch in that.

The TSA spells it out very (pardon the pun) clearly: “Yes, the REAL ID requirements apply to passengers using CLEAR and passengers enrolled in CLEAR will need a REAL ID or other acceptable form of ID starting May 3, 2023.”

We assume that means CLEAR members will simply need to make sure they have a Real ID (or alternative) on file with the company, but CLEAR hasn't publicly addressed the situation yet.

Read our full review of using CLEAR to get through security faster!

Bottom Line

After years of delays and extensions, Real ID is coming six months from today. There's no ruling out yet another extension, but this time it could be official.

Unless you hear otherwise, Real ID will be required to board domestic flights on May 3, 2023. And that means it's time to prepare.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

14 Responses

  • You will need a Real ID, regardless if you travel domestic with your passport or not? So no one will be able to fly without a Real ID at all? Just need some clarification. Thanks!

  • Fact Check: FALSE!
    You can fly with zero ID at all. In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification, because it is lost or at home, you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint. You will be subject to additional screening, to include a patdown and screening of carry-on property.

  • Don’t care about real I’d. I have passport but are we going to talk about a health passport for international travel?

    • 😡 The “health” passports are taking this too far! We all should be calling the airlines and hotels about this push to force everyone into toxic and experimental compliance.

      • Well then stay home while the rest of us get to travel while you wait for herd immunity. There’s no proof vaccines are toxic or this is experimental so take your anti-vax nonsense out of here. If you are one of the unfortunates who cannot be vaccinated then shut up and be patient while you wait for herd immunity.
        Until then the rest of us can’t wait for the vaccine passports to happen and we can get back into the world!

      • You don’t have to travel…….. As a healthcare provider I support mandatory immunizations as they are proven safe and effective. This is simply good public health policy.

  • Government or Military IDs will also be valid for travel. I don’t see why my state has to charge so much for a RealID DL. That probably keeps many people from applying.
    Hopefully a normal shot record will work for proving COVID-19 vaccination, for travel abroad.

  • The headline to this article is a little misleading/unclear. “Warning: You’ll Need a New Real ID to Fly in 6 Months”. That makes it sound like even if you already have a Real ID, you’ll need a new one.
    You could have just left out the “new” and maybe added “… And TSA Really Means It This Time” lol.

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