Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, if you want to travel within the U.S. on a domestic–not international—flight, you will need the driver’s license/ID card known as a Real ID. Haven’t heard of the Real ID? Get in line. It’s part of enhanced efforts to improve national security. Each state is responsible for their Real ID rollout, and in many cases, it’s being met with confusion and anxiety.
The Real ID was conceived in 2005, part of post-9/11 legislation
The Real ID requires people to show security-enhanced IDs to pass through airport security checkpoints or to enter certain federal facilities. Note that you can also use passports and certain other federal documents as alternatives to a Real ID.
Also called the Star Card because most states are marking their Real ID cards with a star in the top right corner, it also must include an encoded “machine readable zone,” with a person’s scannable information. What differentiates this card is that the government requires you to provide more documentation than what you provide to get a driver’s license.
What you need to know about getting a Real ID:
Getting a Real ID requires a trip to the DMV. You’ll need documents proving your age, Social Security number and address. Bring 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.
Your old-style driver’s license is still lawful for driving and still available as an option. However, if you plan to fly after October 1, 2020, you driver’s license won’t be enough to get you through security and onto a plane. You will need a Real ID or a passport.
Real ID remains a work in progress. Twelve states have yet to issue them. Other states have been issuing Real ID cards for several years now with little fanfare. Some are using them with a fair amount of confusion.
Those concerned about privacy issues should know that each state maintains its own records
Many states have delayed getting the cards into circulation because some residents and legislators worry that the Real ID is a way for the government to collect personal information for a national database. People from all states should be reassured that the program is a state-maintained card. There’s no national database. Each jurisdiction maintains its own records, and controls who gets access to those records and under what circumstances.
Paperwork problems can also cause delays
For some people, getting the proper paperwork is a problem; their birth or marriage certificates may not actually be from the state in which they live and, therefore, they do not have sufficient information. In Maryland, residents who are 65 or older are allowed to submit other documents, such as military discharge paperwork.
Real ID: Look for a more aggressive information campaign
Many people remain unaware of, or are simply confused by, the new card’s rules, and the clock is ticking. I was aware of the card only because I renewed my license last fall. I didn’t have the necessary documentation with me to create a Real ID, and I had very little interest in making another trip to the DMV. Because I travel internationally two or three times/year, my passport is always current, and this solution is fine for me.
The Department of Homeland Security has called on travel agents as a way to reach consumers and increase the number of Real ID-compliant users. Look for more public service announcements as they step up their public education campaign.
How to expedite the Real ID card process in California
Make an appointment at your local DMV. It’s not required, but you want to take advantage of anything that will make your experience with the DMV easier.
Complete the online application prior to your visit.
Review the list of documents that you’ll need to take with you to verify your identity, to include social security number and California residency.