- Advertisement -
TravelEverything you need to know about getting a Real ID

Everything you need to know about getting a Real ID

The Department of Homeland Security will finally require U.S. travelers to carry a Real ID for domestic airport travel starting May 7, 2025.

If you’ve traveled through a U.S. airport in the last few years, you may have noticed signs near the security checkpoint reminding passengers about this change to photo ID requirements as part of the Real ID Act. The law was originally supposed to take effect on Oct. 1, 2020, and has since been extended to 2021, 2023 and now 2025.

There has been some confusion about the Real ID Act, who it affects, and what you must do before traveling. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming Real ID requirement to ensure your journey goes smoothly.

What is the Real ID Act?

Congress passed the Real ID Act following Sept. 11, 2001, to set clearer standards for government-issued photo IDs.

The law established a uniform set of security standards for driver’s licenses and other government-issued ID cards and prohibited government agencies from accepting identification that does not meet the standards of the Real ID Act.

One goal was to add an extra layer of security to commercial aviation by making it more difficult for people to obtain false documents to access airplanes.

Government agencies will require more documentation when issuing Real IDs, and the cards are more advanced and, therefore, harder to forge.

The law has taken over a decade to implement because each state currently has different standards and processes for issuing photo IDs. Several states and the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the law, claiming overreach by the federal government.

The Real ID will now officially go into effect on May 7, 2025, giving you less than a year to make sure you have a compliant Real ID — or have plans to obtain one.

Daily Newsletter

Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter

Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts

How to tell if you have a compliant Real ID

Because this law has been on the books for a while, many states have started issuing compliant Real IDs before they’re federally required, meaning you might already have a Real ID, but there are a few easy ways you can check. Generally, IDs with a star or star cutout are Real ID-compliant


However, if your ID is missing the star or says something like “federal limits apply” or “not for federal identification,” you do not have a compliant Real ID.


All 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands are issuing compliant IDs.

But just because you live in a state that issues a Real ID doesn’t mean you’ll automatically receive one. You may need to provide extra documentation, wait longer to receive the ID or even pay a higher processing fee.

This means you should double-check your ID to see if it’s compliant. If you’re still unsure, the DHS has a short quiz on its website to help you identify whether yours is compliant.


What Real ID means for airline passengers

When the Real ID Act is enacted, passengers will not be allowed through TSA security checkpoints without a compliant Real ID. If you aren’t interested in upgrading your driver’s license to a compliant version, you can still travel with a U.S. passport or any of the following TSA-approved forms of identification:

  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri, FAST)
  • Permanent resident card
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID
  • Border-crossing card
  • State-issued 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

Note that travelers under 18 do not need to provide identification when traveling with a companion, which will not change under the Real ID Act.

Do I need a Real ID if I’m enrolled in PreCheck or Global Entry?

Yes. While your Global Entry card will count as a valid form of ID, you’ll need to bring it with you (or another compliant photo ID) when traveling, even if you’re enrolled in one of these programs. Your TSA PreCheck card does not qualify.

Do I need a Real ID?

If you never fly and aren’t going to visit secure government facilities, Real IDs aren’t necessary, and you don’t have to upgrade your ID. You can still vote, drive and access healthcare facilities such as hospitals with noncompliant IDs. However, if you plan to fly within the U.S., you will need a compliant Real ID unless you plan to always travel with a passport or another accepted form of documentation.

My state is compliant with Real ID. Does this mean my driver’s license is OK?

Not necessarily. Just because your state issues compliant IDs doesn’t mean you received one. Check for the star or star cutout to confirm your ID is compliant.

The Real ID regulation requires that states recertify their compliance with the act every three years, on a rolling basis, as determined by DHS.

Do I need a Real ID to fly if I’m under 18?

No, minors traveling with a companion do not need to present a photo ID (though their companion does).

How much does it cost to get a Real ID?

The cost varies by state, ranging from approximately $10 to $85.

Bottom line

If your driver’s license is already Real ID-compliant, you have nothing to worry about, as these upcoming changes won’t affect you. However, if your license isn’t up to the standard of the Real ID Act, you should strongly consider upgrading it as soon as possible to avoid crowds and long wait times as next year’s deadline approaches.

Related reading:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Subscribe Today





Get unlimited access to our EXCLUSIVE Content and our archive of subscriber stories.

Exclusive content

Latest article

More article

- Advertisement -