This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced they are yet again pushing the deadline for travelers to obtain U.S. state driver’s licenses or identification cards that comply with the REAL ID Act security standards. The DHS explains this extension is “due to the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on states’ ability to issue REAL-ID compliant documents.” Individuals now have until May 7, 2025—an additional 24 months after the previous May 3, 2023 deadline. Here’s what else you need to know about what this extended REAL ID deadline means for you.
What is REAL ID?
Back in 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act after the 9/11 Commission recommended the government standardize the issuance of sources of identification for driver’s licenses. Per the DHS, “every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.”
This week’s DHS announcement means that you have until May 7, 2025 to secure your REAL ID. The requirements for securing a REAL ID vary from state to state, so consult this interactive map of the Department of Homeland Security’s website. Generally speaking, each state will require documentation proving your full legal name, your date of birth, your social security number, two proofs of address, and your lawful status.
There’s no additional fee to get a REAL ID, but you will have to take a new picture. The only physical difference between a standard ID and a REAL ID is the latter has a little gold star in the upper right-hand corner.
What does this mean for travelers?
For now, your non-REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards will still be accepted for domestic air travel. After May 7, 2025, you’ll no longer be able to board a plane using your standard-issue driver’s license. Instead, you’ll need to show identification that complies with the document security requirements of the REAL ID Act. This means a state-issued driver’s license or identification card that meets REAL ID requirements.
If you don’t have a driver’s license or state-issued ID, there will still be acceptable alternative forms of identification:
- An unexpired U.S. or foreign passport.
- A DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST)
- A permanent resident (green) card
- A USCIS employment authorization document (EAD)
- A DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license (EDL)
For additional acceptable documents, see the TSA’s full list.
Finally, it’s worth that noting this deadline has been extended numerous times. Originally, REAL ID required states to be in compliance by 2008. It’s almost as if…a security measure that is able to be consistently pushed back for close to 20 years…isn’t all that necessary in the first place.