REAL ID FAQs

The "what" & "why" of the REAL ID Act

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 with the goal to “set minimum security standards for license issuance and production.” The Act established identical requirements for state-issued licenses and ID cards nationwide. While it is not a "national ID," per se, it does provide federal authorities with the assurance that the holder of a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card has met the level of security it deems appropriate for access to certain types of federally overseen locations.

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How does REAL ID apply to me?

The REAL ID Act has the biggest impact on travelers and those who often enter federal buildings or jurisdictions.

A REAL ID-compliant license or ID card is a federally accepted form of identification. You need to provide a federally-approved ID when doing activities such as boarding an airplane, going onto a military base, or stepping into a federal building (like a courthouse or legislative building) or a nuclear facility.

After October 1, 2020, standard (AKA non-compliant) licenses will NOT be federally accepted as identification. Therefore, if you often do any of the activities mentioned above, the REAL ID Act will affect you the most. Without a REAL ID-compliant license, you'll need to bring additional proof of your identity with you, such as your valid passport.

Do I have to get a REAL ID?

No. A REAL ID driver license or identification card is optional. However, many states have adjusted their basic ID issuance requirements so that all of their licenses and ID cards are automatically federally compliant.

A REAL ID-compliant credential is helpful if:

  1. You wish to continue to use your driver's license or identification card to board domestic flights within the U.S.
  2. You often enter secure federal facilities and prefer to use your license or ID card to do so.

If you want to use/have access to a U.S. passport or passport card, military ID, enhanced driver license, or other federally accepted form of identification to do those things, you do NOT need to get a REAL ID license or ID card. However, most states highly recommend you apply for the REAL ID-compliant license the next time you renew.

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