Obtaining a REAL ID

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If there is one place almost everybody hates going, it is the Department of Motor Vehicles. Unfortunately, if you are a US Resident and looking to travel domestically after October 1, 2020 you will have to take a trip to the DMV in order to obtain a REAL ID (unless you have a passport). Confused? I don’t blame you.

What Exactly is a REAL ID?

In 2005, the US Congress passed a law mandating that all of the states have a “minimum security standard for license issuance.” In other words, Congress wanted to have all of the US states be on the same page when it comes to what security features are on state ID cards and driver’s licenses. REAL IDs are being made with a different type of material and new technology that is supposedly making it harder to make a fake ID. Why now? Why does this matter 14 years later?

You might have guessed that the state governments are really behind on implementing the REAL IDs. Multiple extensions have been passed by the federal US government and 2020 is the official deadline (unless you live in a state with an official extension). After October 1, 2020, as I previously mentioned you will not be able to use your state ID card or driver’s license to fly domestically unless you have a passport. International travel will not change; you must still have a valid passport.

Do I Need A REAL ID?

If you are under 18 or don’t plan to travel domestically or plan to use your passport or other approved TSA ID instead, than technically no. It is a hassle to travel with a passport though and might make your life a lot easier if you take the time to go get an ID.

What Do I Need to Get One?

Each state may vary, but the first requirement is that you will have to go into your state’s DMV in person. The whole idea behind the REAL ID is that your state’s DMV is verifying specific documentation to ensure you are who your say you are. When it comes to the documents you need, the best resource is going to be for you to check your state’s DMV website for a check list.

Most states will require a minimum of two government issued identifying documents like a birth certificate, passport and your current driver’s license or state ID. Some states will require a document showing your social security number (ie: W2, social security card, pay stub) and documents showing you live in the state to establish residency. If you have changed your name, you may have to show a marriage certificate.

My biggest piece of advice if you are planning to get one is to ensure you make an appointment at your local DMV. I know when I went in to get mine without an appointment it took about 8 hours. The lines were endless and everything seemed to be moving at a glacial pace. It’s also better to go earlier in the morning and on a weekday if possible.

How Do I Know If I Already Have One?

Most states will have a gold star or black star on your REAL ID, otherwise, contact your state DMV to ask about it. Another factor is that non-compliant IDs may say something like “federal limits apply” or “not good for federal purposes.”

Does It Cost Money?

Unfortunately yes! Each state sets their own price, but it ranges across the board from $15 to $80. Generally it is the cost of a new license

Is My State Compliant?

The best resource it the official DHS webpage on the REAL ID here.

Wrapping Up

I’m definitely not the expert here, but my advise is to ask yourself if you are traveling what documents you plan to use to fly next year. Don’t wait until the last minute. It’s going to become a mad rush to get a REAL ID. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you had a lot more questions that I tried to overview here. Start by checking the DMV website for your state. Surprisingly it may have more information on it than you think. I can always try to help you here. Hope this post helps! Until next time, happy travels!