Barring yet another extension and delay, you’ll need a new, federally approved driver’s license called a Real ID to fly on each and every domestic flight this time next year.
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.
The stricter ID requirements to board domestic flights have constantly been pushed back as states as resisted falling in line. Most recently, President Donald Trump’s administration this spring pushed the deadline from Oct. 1, 2020 back to Oct. 1, 2021. And there’s no telling whether the law will be delayed once again beyond next year.
Still, 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 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 ID exception that exists 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 110 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. Maybe it will be October 2021, or perhaps that gets pushed back again to 2022 or beyond. But sometime in the not-too-distant future, you’ll need a new form of ID to continue flying in the U.S.