What Travelers Should Know About the Real ID Act

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We want you to do something very quickly. Locate your state-issued driver’s license or ID and look in the top right. If there’s a star in the top right, congratulations — you’re in compliance with the Real ID Act. If you don’t see a star, keep reading!

First, you may be wondering what the Real ID Act is. The Real ID Act was created following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005. It “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,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

At the time of this blog’s publication, the vast majority of U.S. states (including Texas, where we reside) are compliant with the Act.

What this Means for Travelers

Because airports are considered federal facilities, under the Act, travelers are required to show state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards shown to be Real ID compliant. Travelers who don’t have Real IDs have until Oct. 1, 2020 to get one. Yes, that’s just seven months away.

However, you can still fly without a Real ID after Oct. 1 by showing an alternate form of acceptable identification – the most common being a passport. Most people who fly internationally pretty regularly will have that on them anyway.

But if you don’t have a passport – or have one and don’t want to use it for domestic flights – you will need to get a Real ID. Oregon and Oklahoma are currently the only two states who have yet to implement the Real ID Act, but it’s coming.

How to Obtain a Real ID

This is the not-so-fun part. We know everybody dreads going to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Well you’re going to have to visit your local DMV to get your Real ID. Yes, like physically go there. While the Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it would be streamlining the process, essentially allowing people to electronically send some documents before physically visiting the DMV, long lines have already been reported at some locations.

From what we can ascertain, applicants need quite a bit of documentation, such as their original birth certificate and social security card. Texas residents — click here for a full checklist.

In order to avoid hassles on and after Oct. 1, those who plan to fly may want to take care of this Real ID thing fairly quickly. Or of course you can always use your passport while many may choose to do.

The U.S. Travel Association said the Real ID Act still poses a challenge, stating, “the challenge remains that tens of millions of Americans do not yet possess REAL ID-compliant identification, and we won’t solve this issue by pushing people to the DMV.”

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