Get The Vacationer Newsletter

Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox

    Get The Vacationer Newsletter

    Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox

      Advertiser Disclosure

      If you make a purchase or sign up for a credit card after clicking a link on this site, The Vacationer may receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The Vacationer does not review or include all possible offers, credit cards or credit card companies.

      REAL ID Act 2020 – State Requirements, Deadlines, Documents, & Cost

      Phil Dengler
      REAL ID Act Guide State Requirements Applying Cost

      Airports across the United States now have signs alerting travelers of new photo ID requirements to fly. You may have seen signs detailing the REAL ID Act, but what does it mean for you? Many people already unknowingly have REAL IDs, while others will have to get one soon.

      This post will explain the REAL ID Act and how it may affect your next trip to the airport.

      Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to set better and more secure standards for the issuance of state-issued driver’s licenses and other forms of identification. The 9/11 attacks spearheaded the movement, and federal agencies like the TSA will soon only accept forms of identification that meet the standards outlined in the REAL ID Act. As of February 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced nearly 100,000,000 Americans had REAL IDs.

      Before September 11, 2011, it was easier to get a state-issued driver’s license. To prevent things like fraud and terrorism, the REAL ID Act makes it harder to get approved for a license or ID for those who are not eligible. Those applying for a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license will need to show multiple documents to prove their identity, residency, and social security number. While it may seem excessive, the goal of the REAL ID Act is to keep everyone safer when flying from a United States airport and entering federal facilities.

      Real ID Enforcement Deadline Date

      Initially, all 50 states needed to comply with the REAL ID Act by October 1, 2020. Due to COVID-19, that date has been pushed back one year to October 1, 2021. With COVID-19 cases still increasing in some states, it remains to be seen whether or not the date will be pushed back again. If the October 1, 2021 deadline stands, you will not be able to fly without a REAL ID or other accepted form of identification on that date.

      Do I Have to Get a REAL ID?

      You are not required to get a REAL ID, but you must have an acceptable alternative ID if you want to fly from a United States airport. Additionally, you must have a REAL ID to access certain federal facilities, military bases, and nuclear power plants. Children under the age of 18 are not required to get a REAL ID to fly. If you just want to use your ID to drive or vote, you do not need a REAL ID.

      REAL ID Alternatives For Flying

      As previously mentioned, you do not need a REAL ID to fly, but you will need one of these TSA-approved alternatives. The most common ones on the list are United States Passports and Passport Cards, but there are many others that you may be unaware of.

      • United States Passport or Passport Card
      • Permanent Resident Card
      • DHS Trusted Traveler Card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
      • Approved Enhanced Driver’s License
      • Border Crossing Card
      • United States Department of Defense ID
      • Military ID

      You can see the current list of approved REAL ID alternatives at the TSA website.

      The Vacationer Tip

      Ultimately, if you have a passport, passport card, or any of the above-listed alternatives and do not mind bringing it with you when flying domestically, you do not need a REAL ID.

      Activities That Do Not Require a REAL ID

      As you are a reader of The Vacationer, you will likely be flying in the future. If you prefer to take road trips or just do not like flying, you may not need to upgrade your driver’s license to be REAL ID compliant. Here are things you can do with your non-compliant REAL ID driver’s license or ID.

      • Drive within the United States and cross state lines
      • Rent a car within the United States
      • Buy products requiring an ID (alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets)
      • Enter non-federal facilities requiring an ID (casino, bar, gentleman’s club)
      • Enter federal facilities not requiring an ID
      • Voting and registering to vote
      • Receive Federal Benefits
      • Access healthcare facilities such as hospitals and urgent care centers
      • Other general identification purposes

      What Does a REAL ID-Compliant Driver’s License Look Like?

      REAL ID Compliant Vs Non Compliant Stars

      Photo: California DMV

      As previously mentioned, your state-issued driver’s license may already be a compliant REAL ID. The quickest way to check is to see if it has a star in the upper right corner. Depending on your state, the star will be black or gold. It also may be a star cutout in a gold circle or a star cutout in a black circle. Finally, it may be a star cutout in a grizzly bear. If you see one of those stars, you most likely have a compliant REAL ID.

      REAL ID Compliant Drivers Licenses

      Photo: Department of Homeland Security

      If you do not see a star in the upper right corner, it is unlikely your driver’s license is a compliant REAL ID (with a few state exceptions). It may also say “Not For REAL ID Purposes”, “Not For Federal Identification”, or something similar. If that is the case, you will have to upgrade your license to a REAL ID to fly or use one of the approved alternative IDs.

      Enhanced Driver’s Licenses

      In addition to REAL IDs, a few states also issue enhanced driver’s licenses. Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont issue REAL IDs as well as enhanced driver’s licenses. The state of Washington only issues enhanced driver’s licenses at the moment. These licenses do not have a star in the upper right corner, but they are REAL ID compliant.

      In addition to being accepted by the TSA, enhanced driver’s licenses also allow entry into the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

      States in Compliance With The REAL ID Act

      As of July 2020, 48 out of 50 states comply with the REAL ID Act. New Jersey is the most recent state to become compliant, and only Oregon and Oklahoma are not yet compliant. Both states have extensions and are expected to become compliant soon.

      REAL ID Compliance By State

      Photo: Department of Homeland Security

      It is important to note that while your state may be in compliance, your current driver’s license may not be a REAL ID. You should check for the star in the upper right corner of your license. If you are not sure if your license is compliant, we recommend contacting your state’s DMV.

      Whether or not your state is currently compliant, you can use your current driver’s license to fly until October 1, 2021. If you do not upgrade by that date, you will have to use an alternative form of ID to fly.

      How Do I Get a REAL ID?

      While it is possible to renew a standard license online, you must visit your local DMV to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. Depending on your state, you may have to make an appointment. Other states, such as New Jersey, allow walk-ins on certain dates if your license is within three months of expiring. See a list of all 50 DMV state websites to make your appointment.

      Required Documents

      While each state may have slightly different requirements, you will need the following to be approved for a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. Have them ready before you go to the DMV so you do not have to make multiple trips. With the documents, you will be providing evidence for your full legal name, DOB, social security number, lawful status, and proof of address.

      • Proof of Identity (1 Required) – Examples include a United States Passport or Passport Card, Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate, Permanent Resident Card, Foreign Passport with Valid Visa and I-94, Certificate of Citizenship, Certificate of Naturalization, or a Photo Employment Authorization Card.
      • Proof of a Current Residential Address (2 Required) – Examples include Utility Bills (past 90 days), Credit Card Bills (past 90 days), Original and Unexpired Lease Agreement, Valid Driver’s License or Non-Driver Identification Card, IRS Letter (past 12 months), Recent Bank Statement, or a letter from a parent or guardian certifying the address for those under 18. Financial information may be blacked out on all bank and credit card statements.
      • Proof of a Valid Social Security Number (1 Required) – Examples include Social Security Card, Pay Stub with Name and Social Security Number, 1099 form (past 12 months), or a W-2 form (past 12 months).
      • Proof of Legal Name Change (if applicable) – Examples include Marriage Certificate or Court Order.

      Remember, each state may have different REAL ID requirements (here are New Jersey’s, for example). At the minimum, you will need a combination of the above-listed documents. Check with your state’s DMV to see if you need any additional documents.

      The Vacationer Tip

      Many state DMV websites have document selectors to see what you need to bring to get a REAL ID. Check your state DMV website for more information.

      REAL ID Cost

      The cost of a REAL ID varies by state. The cost also depends on whether or not you are getting a new license, a renewal, or a duplicate. If your current license is not expiring and you simply want to upgrade to a REAL ID, there is also likely a cost for that. New Jersey, for example, charges an $11 change fee. If you have an expiring New Jersey license and upgrade to a REAL ID at expiration, you will only pay the $24 renewal fee.

      Expect to pay between $10 to $80 to upgrade to a REAL ID. Most people will pay $50 or less, but it really depends on your state and whether or not you are getting a new license, renewing your current license, or simply upgrading your current license.

      REAL ID and International Travel

      A REAL ID is not a substitute for a United States passport or passport card for international travel. You must still have a passport (or other accepted document) to travel internationally and return to the United States via air, land, and sea.

      REAL ID and TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR

      Despite being pre-screened and deemed to be low-risk travelers, TSA PreCheck members still need a REAL ID to fly from a United States airport. Global Entry members still need their passport or permanent resident card to travel internationally and use Global Entry kiosks. CLEAR members must also have a REAL ID to fly.

      Considerations for Children Under 18

      The TSA does not check IDs from children under the age of 18. For that reason, those under the age of 18 do not have to get a REAL ID. If a child is traveling with someone over the age of 18, that person must have a REAL ID.

      FAQ

      What is a REAL ID?

      A REAL ID is a state-issued driver’s license or identification card that meets standards outlined in the REAL ID Act. On October 1, 2021, federal agencies like the TSA will only accept IDs that meet the standards.

      How much does a REAL ID cost?

      The cost of a REAL ID varies by state. It may cost as little as $10 to as much as $80. The cost depends on the state as well if you are getting a new license, renewing an expiring license, or upgrading an existing license.

      Am I required to get a REAL ID?

      No one is required to get a REAL ID. You should get a REAL ID if you plan on flying from a United States airport and do not have an alternative TSA-approved ID.

      What types of identification are considered alternatives to a REAL ID?

      REAL ID alternatives include United States passports and passport cards, permanent resident cards, trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST), enhanced driver’s licenses, and military IDs.

      What documents are required to get a REAL ID?

      At minimum, you need to provide documents to prove your identity, address, and social security number. Examples include passports, birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses, permanent resident cards, utility bills, and bank statements. Additionally, states may also have their own requirements.

      Can I get a REAL ID online or by mail?

      You must physically go to your local DMV to get a REAL ID.

      Do children need to get a REAL ID to fly?

      Children under the age of 18 do not need a REAL ID to fly.

      I have a United States passport or passport card. Do I need a REAL ID?

      Probably not. You will need to bring your passport or passport card to fly from a United States airport, however.

      What is the deadline to get a REAL ID?

      The deadline to get a REAL ID is October 1, 2021. On that date, the TSA will require REAL IDs or alternatives to fly. Until October 1, 2021, you may fly without a REAL ID.

      Is a military ID considered a REAL ID?

      Yes.

      Can I use my REAL ID to travel internationally by air or land?

      No, a REAL ID cannot be used for international travel including land crossings.

      The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts

      While COVID-19 pushed back the original REAL ID deadline, you should plan accordingly for October 1, 2021. In our opinion, you do not need to rush to get a REAL ID if you have one of the many alternatives, including a passport or trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST). If you do not have an alternative REAL ID and plan on flying from a United States airport, you will need to get a REAL ID before the deadline.

      Featured Image by Department of Homeland Security

      Phil Dengler The Vacationer Bio

      By Phil Dengler

      In addition to being a co-founder of The Vacationer, Phil Dengler is also the head of editorial and marketing. Previously, he ran a popular holiday deals website where he was a trusted source for all things Black Friday. With The Vacationer, Phil combines his knowledge of deals with his love of travel to help you plan the perfect vacation.