top of page
  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Everything You Need to Know About the REAL ID Act

If you remember, last week I was anticipating the arrival of Colorado's first storm of the season. It came and went, and now the rest of the country is dealing with it in whatever form it takes for them. For us it was snow, and so a couple of the Colorado ski areas are the first to open in North America this year. Are you a skier? I have participated, but I am not a skier. Snow sports beckon to me not a at all; however, I have enjoyed wintertime in Europe, and Canada, and so even non-skiers can participate in the ambiance of ski resorts, if not the actual shushing. if a ski vacation is your joy, there is still time to get yours on in North America, and in Europe. How cool would that be?

This week's newsletter is about some changes coming to travel in the US. Are your days of flying domestically using only your driver’s license numbered? They could be, if you live in one of several states. As the deadline for the REAL ID Act looms, it’s vital for you to know whether you live in any of the states where current driver’s licenses don’t meet the new criteria, or whether your own driver's license is compliant. The link above has that information, and is up-to-date. If you are without a REAL ID come October 1, 2020, you might not be able to fly in the U.S. with just your state-issued ID.

What Is the Real ID Act? In 2005, the Real ID Act established nationwide requirements for state IDs (for most people that's a driver's license) as a post-9/11 security measure. States have had over a decade to make the changes: the deadline is now October 2020. For travelers in the few remaining states that aren’t yet fully compliant with REAL ID requirements, come 2020 this could mean that you’ll need a passport or alternate form of identification for domestic air travel.

What if your state is compliant, but you aren't? According to the DHS website, by October 2020 “every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel” as well as to enter federal government buildings. If by this date your state license is not a REAL ID compatible one, you will need to bring another form of ID to the airport, like a passport.

How Do I Get a Real ID? Depending on your state, the process for getting your REAL ID may be a little more difficult than the last time you renewed your license; or not. You’ll may have to visit a DMV and provide paperwork, like proof of residency and proof of lawful presence in the United States. Check your state’s DMV requirements online for more information. Do an online search of your state DMV's website before before you head down there to avoid being unprepared.

Real ID vs. Passports If don’t acquire your Real ID before October 1, 2020, you’ll need to bring a passport or another TSA-acceptable document with you to the airport in order to pass through security. The DHS reminded travelers in April of the 2020 deadline, probably because if everyone rushes to get a REAL ID at once in late 2020, then there could be long wait times in some states.

If you don’t have a passport, there’s also some urgency to get one before late 2020: the State Department has warned of longer-than-usual passport processing times in recent years. This first happened in 2017 after a large number of passports expired (10 years after the U.S. first required passports for Canada and Mexico). The REAL ID fervor could cause another spike in passport applications close to October 2020, so it’s best to renew early. Remember, some destinations require six-month passport validity to enter the country—so you should be thinking about renewing your passport early regardless of your ID type.

Does a Real ID Replace a Passport? The short answer: no. You’ll need a REAL ID at minimum for domestic travel come October 2020, and your passport can work in place of a REAL ID for domestic travel—but a valid passport will still be required for international travel. So whether you have a REAL ID or not, a passport will always get you through airport security. And whether you have a REAL ID or not, a passport will always be required for international travel.

If you’re a non-citizen or you think getting your ID might be more complicated for any other reason, check the Department of Homeland Security’s DHS REAL ID FAQ page for more information on your particular case.

Feedback time - what's your preference: this new format of reading the newsletter on my website? Or reading the entire email in your email box. Don't be shy - I can take it. There's a comment section all the way at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

'til next week.

58 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page