There were twists and turns along the way, but it’s clear now: You will need a new, federally approved driver’s license to board a domestic flight starting in October 2020.
They’re called Real IDs, and they come with some extra hoops to jump through when applying for or renewing a driver’s license to prove your identity. These new IDs stem from a 2005 federal law meant to combat terrorism and identity fraud after the Sept. 11 attacks.
These new IDs have been available in many states for almost a decade, while others – like Minnesota – took far longer to get on board and start issuing the new licenses. But these are now available in all but a few states, and you’ll need them to board any domestic flight as of Oct. 1, 2020.
How to Get a Real ID
Today, you can get a Real ID-compliant license in almost every state in the nation. The cost will vary state by state, and 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 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.
A handful of states, meanwhile, are still trying to get their new licensing systems up and running. You can’t currently get a Real ID license in the following states:
- Kentucky (expected in summer 2019)
- Maine (expected in summer 2019)
- New Jersey (expected in spring 2019)
- Oklahoma (expected in 2019)
- Oregon (expected in mid-2020)
Of course, 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.
Real ID is coming. Get your Real ID-compliant licenses now to avoid a rush at your local DMV – or getting turned away at the airport.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.