The REAL ID Act: What You Need To Know

11.06.23 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images

You’ve probably heard the buzz surrounding ​​​REAL ID ​compliance in the media or have seen signs at airport security warning travelers about changes in ID requirements. Use the following information to clarify the facts about the REAL ID and what ​do ​you need to do to be ready before the deadline.

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005. It set minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. It prohibits federal agencies like the TSA from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that don't meet these standards. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “the purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.” Airports are considered federal facilities, so the REAL ID Act affects your ability to pass through security in order to board your flight.

What should my REAL ID look like?

REAL ID-compliant cards are marked with a star at the top of the card. Some states can be tricky, so always double-check your state’s requirements. For example, as noted on the TSA website, Legacy Ohio driver’s licenses have a gold star marking on the card, however REAL ID-compliant Ohio driver’s licenses have a black cut-out star.

To see what your REAL ID should look like according to your state, visit ​TSA​​​.

Do I need a REAL ID?

Basically, if you intend to fly domestically in the U.S. after the deadline, you’ll need a REAL ID to pass through security (unless you intend to use a valid passport). A valid passport is still required to ​travel internationally​ and cross any U.S. borders. You also need a REAL ID to visit a secure federal facility, like a military base, without a military ID.

You don’t need a REAL ID if you’re under 18 years old, don’t intend to fly domestically, or to vote, serve jury duty, or drive.

When is the deadline?

Beginning​ May,​ 202​5​​​, you'll need to have a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of ID, such as a valid passport or U.S. military ID, to fly within the U.S. Please note the TSA won't accept temporary or interim REAL IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

How to get a REAL ID

Visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. Some states are allowing for the electronic submission of required documents for REAL ID applications while other states may impose additional requirements, so check with your state’s DMV website before visiting them in person. According to the Department of Homeland Security, at a minimum you must provide documentation showing:

  1. Full legal name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Social Security number
  4. Two proofs of address of principal residence
  5. Lawful status

Flying and the REAL ID

As of the ​May 7, 2025​​ deadline, a traditional driver’s license will no longer be accepted through airport security. All passengers on domestic flights will be required to present a REAL ID – or an acceptable alternative – at airport security. Even if you have TSA Pre​✓​® or use CLEAR, you’ll still need a REAL ID or valid passport. The TSA doesn't require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling within the United States, but it’s wise to contact your airline for questions regarding specific ID requirements. Certain airlines may require proof of the child’s age, such as a birth certificate or passport.

Acceptable ID alternatives would include the following:

  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • U.S. Military ID
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • Enhanced driver’s license with RFID chip and/or MRZ barcode. Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York states issue REAL ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which are acceptable. Washington state issues enhanced driver’s licenses only. State-issued enhanced driver’s licenses are marked with a flag. These documents will be accepted at the airport security checkpoint when the REAL ID enforcement goes into effect.
  • Review the complete list of acceptable IDs

​​Don’t let your travel plans be interrupted. Plan ahead to avoid the last-minute rush and be ready before the ​May 7, 2025​​ deadline.​​​

​​​​Want to protect your upcoming trip? Get a travel insurance quote now.​

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