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U.S. Requirement For All Travelers To Have REAL ID Pushed Back

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The U.S. federal government has once again pushed back the REAL ID deadline. The new date is now May 7, 2025, giving travelers two additional years to obtain the ID. All Americans traveling on domestic flights will need a REAL ID-enhanced driver’s license or another approved form of identification to board their flight.

A man in a suit shows his REAL ID at airport check in

Why Was The Deadline Pushed Back?

The REAL ID program is managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Department has blamed the delay in the rollout on Covid. In a press release this week, the Department explained that state driver’s licensing agencies are still working through backlogs.

During the pandemic, many state agencies extended license expiration dates and suspended walk-in service. These actions were an attempt to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus by limiting face-to-face interactions, but they have put them behind schedule in REAL ID compliance.

a group of people are packed into a waiting room at the DMV, some are applying for a REAL ID

Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro N. Mayorkas further explained the situation. “This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card. DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American Public can travel safely.” No details were given on the “innovations” mentioned by Secretary Mayorkas.

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An elderly couple stare at airport documents while standing next to their suitcases

What Is A REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act was passed by congress in 2005 in response to a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission. The intent of the program is to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and other identification cards. REAL ID standards include anti-counterfeiting components and additional documentation, and extra checks to confirm a person’s identity. It also takes measures to prevent any fraud from within agencies.   

A man speaks to an airport worker about using his REAL ID

You’ll know if your card meets REAL ID standards if it has a star at the top. A REAL ID makes your state-issued card a valid form of federal identification, just like your passport.  

Who Needs A REAL ID?

Anyone over the age of 18 who plans on flying domestically should get a REAL ID unless they have another federally approved form of identification. There are 3 different situations where you will need a REAL ID:

TSA Lines in Denver Airport
  • To board any federally regulated commercial airplane
  • When visiting certain federal buildings (federally run museums are exempt from this)
  • To enter a nuclear power plant

Essentially, once the deadline hits in 2025, you’ll need a REAL ID anywhere where federal officials check your identification. If you show up at a TSA checkpoint without a REAL ID or an accepted alternative ID, you will be denied boarding.  

flyers at JFK Airport look for their flights after check-in

REAL ID Alternatives

While the new deadline gives travelers an additional two years to get the new IDs, it is inevitable that some people still won’t get it in time. If you don’t have a REAL ID after May 7, 2025, and still need to fly, there are some alternatives:

  • A valid U.S. passport or passport card
  • Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler card  (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • Enhanced Driver’s License issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont
  • U.S. Department of Defence ID
  • Permanent resident card
  • A photo ID issued by a federally recognized Tribal Nation

For the full list, visit the TSA’s website.

Traveler Holding Up A US Passport With A Boarding Pass, International Travel

Who Doesn’t Need A REAL ID?

There are some instances where travelers might not need to get a REAL ID:

  • If you have any of the above REAL ID alternatives
  • Anyone under the age of 18
  • If you are only flying internationally (you’ll need a passport instead)
  • Foreign passport holders

How Do You Get A REAL ID?

The DHS has set up a webpage with helpful links to each state agency responsible for issuing the cards. You’ll need to start by contacting your state’s agency. Each state has a different procedure you’ll need to follow in order to obtain a REAL ID. At the very least, you’ll need to present documents to prove your name, date of birth, social security number, proof of address, and lawful status. These are the minimum conditions set by the federal government. Your state could have additional requirements.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Wednesday 7th of December 2022

pointless...they've pushed this back so many times. just cancel it.

I have one...but's so dumb.