What to know about the driver’s license you’ll need to fly next year
In just 19 months air travelers will need the driver’s license/ID card known as a Real ID if they want to board domestic flights, but as states roll out the new cards there has been both confusion and anxiety.
Oct. 1, 2020, is the day the Real ID law will finally be enforced. Conceived as part of 2005 legislation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it requires people to show security-enhanced IDs to pass through airport security checkpoints or to enter certain federal facilities, such as military bases. (You will also be able to use passports or certain other federal documents as an alternative to a Real ID.)
Sometimes called the Star Card, because most states are marking their Real ID cards with a gold or black star in the top right corner, it also must include an encoded “machine readable zone,” like a passport’s, with a person’s scannable information. Many state driver’s licenses already have this feature. The key thing that makes the card “special,” is that the federal government requires you to provide certain identifying documentation to obtain one from your state.
The rollout has caused confusion for various reasons, so here are a few basics that are helpful to understand:
• To get a Real ID, you need to present documents to your motor vehicle department proving your age and identity, Social Security number and address. That generally means bringing a birth certificate or passport, a Social Security card or tax form such as a W-2, and two proofs of address. If you’ve changed your name through marriage, you’ll need a marriage certificate.
• Although the Real ID is also a driver’s license, the old-style driver’s license is still lawful for driving and still available as an option in many states. (Some, such as Arizona and Kentucky, are trying to make this clear by calling the Real ID a “Voluntary Traveler ID.”)
The Department of Homeland Security has called on travel agents to begin asking their customers whether they’re Real ID compliant, and is stepping up its public education campaign.
• To fly, however, a “regular” driver's license won’t be sufficient to get through security and onto a plane. The Real ID technically is not mandatory because you can instead use a passport or an ID from the federal government’s Trusted Traveler Program, such as a Global Entry card.
• For international travel, you’ll still need a passport.
That all may sound simple enough, but in much of the country, nearly 15 years after its conception, Real ID remains a work in progress — and difficult for some residents trying to get a new card.
Twelve states have yet to issue them, but are working on it (Tennessee, for instance, plans to have them ready in July). Other states