Let's get REAL - What you need to know about REAL ID

Imagine arriving at the airport for long awaited vacation to Hawaii or a trip to New York City, when you suddenly realize you can’t make it past the security checkpoint because you don't have the correct identification or driver’s license anymore. 😧


Many of us use our driver’s licenses as a primary form of identification, but if you fly within the United States (or plan on entering secure federal buildings or military bases), you will need to bring a valid passport or other federally approved document, such as a REAL ID driver's license or identification card, beginning October 1, 2020.


Here is what you need to know:
Beginning October 1, 2020, your driver’s license will need to be REAL ID compliant if you want to use it to fly within the United States.  This is due to a law, the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress back in 2005.  There has been a delay in fully implementing it, but if your license is not compliant by October 2020, and you don’t have another acceptable form of ID, you won't be able to get through airport security.

REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and the processes to get them are different state to state, which can be confusing, but in most cases, you’ll just need to bring additional documentation to get a REAL ID compliant driver’s license.

Most states will identify REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses with a gold star in the upper right corner, which indicates they’ll be ready to use at airport security checkpoints starting October 1, 2020.

However, you do have a choice.  Your driver’s license does not need to be REAL ID compliant for air travel, but if you want to fly domestically after October 1, 2020, without a REAL ID, you will need your passport.


REAL ID in California
I have already updated my driver's license to a REAL ID compliant driver's license so I will be ready for the new deadline, but I know a lot of people who haven't started the process yet to get their ID - you have approximately 15 months left! 

For California, the process to get a REAL ID compliant ID wasn't too painful of a process, but it did involve a few key steps to make it easier:

  • Schedule an appointment - This is not a requirement but I highly recommend it!!
    • I wasn't able to immediately schedule an appointment and had to schedule for 2-3 months out from when I started the process, so be prepared and plan accordingly.
  • Complete the electronic driver license and ID card application online before your office visit.
  • Start collecting the documents you'll need: 
    • Present original or certified documents proving your identity (one document), Social Security number (one document) and California residency - street address (two different documents). Photocopies of residency documents are accepted. 
  • In-Person visit to DMV on your appointment date/time or walk in
    • Be sure to check the applicable fees and forms of payment accepted prior to going to your appointment. 


I made an appointment with my local DMV office and arrived well before it opened and to my surprise there was already a long line wrapped around the building.  Once finding the right line for those with appointments, I waited a short while before finally meeting with a pleasant DMV field employee to go over the application, paperwork and get my photo taken.  It took me approximately 1.5-2.0 hours from start to finish at the appointment.


Depending on where you live the process may be easier (or harder), but be sure to refer to your state licensing agency or motor vehicle department website for more details and plan accordingly. 

Links for each state on how to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license is included below:

REAL ID website link for additional information

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming