My driver’s license is up for renewal.  When I was filling out the online renewal application, I was presented with two options.  I can apply for a standard driver’s license or a REAL ID compliant license.  The fee is the same.

What exactly is the REAL ID Act?

If you haven’t heard about the Real ID Act, it is a federal mandate passed by Congress back in 2005 based on a 9/11 Commission recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

The Act “established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.”

This includes “accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.”

What This Means for You?

Specifically, it means a standard driver’s license would no longer be an acceptable form of ID for domestic air travel, starting Oct 1, 2020.  A  Real ID-compliant driver’s license or an alternate acceptable form of ID would be required to fly domestically.

As of this post, nearly half of all the states have met the “REAL ID minimum standards” or have been granted an extension.

What Are Other Acceptable ID for Domestic Travel after October 1, 2020?

You can still travel without a REAL ID.  TSA listed the following as other acceptable forms of ID:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Are You Ready for the Change?

I see no reason not to apply for the REAL ID compliant driver’s license when you are renewing your license.  I don’t generally carry my Global Entry card, and I don’t want to carry my passport around for domestic travel.

The major caveat with applying for the REAL ID?

You can’t apply for it online.  You have to go to the Registry or an AAA branch and provide your documentation in person.  The longest part for me was probably the wait.  It took about an hour before I got to see a representative.

I expect the wait time to get a lot worse before it gets better.

If you are due to renew your driver’s license anyway, look into getting a REAL ID compliant license.  You can save yourself some time and hassles down the line.


Are you ready for it?