What to know about REAL ID and why you’ll need it to fly

A REAL ID will be required to board domestic flights beginning Oct. 1, 2020. Photo Credit: Transportation Security Administration

In 2005, at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in order to establish security standards for issuing licenses.

A REAL ID will be required to board domestic flights beginning Oct. 1, 2020.
A REAL ID will be required to board domestic flights beginning Oct. 1, 2020. Photo Credit: Sebastian Lucrecio

The countdown has begun: New Yorkers have less than a year until an enhanced driver’s license or REAL ID will be required to fly domestically as well as to enter certain federal buildings, military bases and nuclear power plants.

Why? In 2005, at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in order to establish security standards for issuing licenses and keep terrorists from using fraudulent identification, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website.

Once enforcement begins in New York on Oct. 1, 2020, federal agencies will no longer be able to accept standard driver’s licenses for certain purposes, including boarding a plane for a domestic flight.

Below, learn more about what real ID is, how to get one and more.

What is REAL ID?

A REAL ID is a state-issued driver’s license that indicates the holder meets federal regulations on minimum security standards.

Is REAL ID the same as an enhanced driver’s license?

There are small differences between a REAL ID and an enhanced driver’s license, but the important similarity they share is that both are considered federally compliant with the REAL ID Act and would enable the holder to board a domestic flight or gain entry to federal buildings and military bases.

An enhanced driver’s license also allows the holder to use it as an acceptable form of identification when crossing into the U.S. by land from Canada and Mexico.

What does a REAL ID look like?

A REAL ID lists all of the same information as a standard driver’s license and has a star in the top right corner.

What does an enhanced driver’s license look like?

An enhanced driver’s license lists all of the same information as a standard driver’s license and has a flag at the bottom right corner instead of the star.

When is REAL ID needed to fly?

A REAL ID is needed to fly within the United States beginning Oct. 1, 2020.

Is REAL ID mandatory?

A REAL ID is not mandatory, however, anyone wishing to fly domestically will need one in order to get through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at airports across the country.

Are there other documents the TSA would accept?

Other acceptable forms of identification to board a domestic flight after Oct. 1, 2020, include a valid passport, federal government PIV card or U.S. military ID.

How to obtain a REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license?

Whether you’re interested in upgrading to a REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license, both will require a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

For an enhanced driver’s license, you’ll need to prove your identity, state residency, U.S. citizenship, date of birth and social security status.

For a REAL ID, you’ll need to prove your identity, state residency, lawful presence in the U.S. and social security status.

For more information, visit the DMV’s website.

How much does a REAL ID cost?

There is no additional charge to obtain a REAL ID, except for standard transaction fees, according to the New York DMV. An enhanced driver’s license costs $30, plus transaction fees.

Will REAL ID be required to vote?

No, you will not need a REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license to vote.

Is REAL ID the same as a passport?

No, you will still need a passport to leave and return to the U.S. by plane. The enhanced driver’s license will allow the holder to enter the country by land from Canada or Mexico.

Lauren Cook