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When Do You Need a REAL ID to Fly?
Guide to What’s Required

Everything you need to know to avoid unexpected delays in your travels.

going through the airport security to board a domestic flight

Contents

The standards for identification when traveling within the US are changing–the REAL ID Act has brought about shifts that every American should know of to keep their journeys hassle-free and seamless. In this blog post, we will briefly cover all you need to know: the specifics of the act, the compliance deadlines, when you should obtain a REAL ID, and if you need one right now.

When Do You Need a REAL ID to Fly?

Through a federal program initiated under the 2005 REAL ID Act, the US government established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. It was in response to the 9/11 attacks to enhance the security of identification documents and combat identity fraud.

According to federal law, certain requirements must be met by states for their driver’s licenses and ID cards. Otherwise, they won’t be valid when used for certain purposes like boarding domestic flights and accessing federal facilities or nuclear plants.

REAL ID Deadline

Since its enactment in 2005, the REAL ID Act has been phased in gradually due to several reasons. First and foremost, it’s been taking so long because all state driver’s licensing agencies have differences in their ID issuance procedures and need time to adjust to issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses. Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic became a major roadblock that slowed down the whole REAL ID progress dramatically. Currently, there have been three key deadlines:

  1. October 1, 2021 (Extended to May 3, 2023): This was the initial date when the REAL ID reform should have been implemented nationwide. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline was moved to May 3, 2023.

  2. May 3, 2023 (Extended to May 7, 2025): According to Homeland Security, states needed more time still and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) would also use this time to make REAL ID-compliant licenses more secure and efficient–hence the second deadline extension.
  3. May 7, 2025 (Current Deadline): Starting from this date, federal agencies like TSA (Transportation Security Administration) will accept your driver’s license or ID card as identification only if it complies with the REAL ID requirements.

It’d be a wise move to get a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card before the deadline, as it is unlikely to get extended! Our website will help you get a passport photo or identification photo in 3 seconds. For example, get CVS passport photos instantly right now.

When Will I Need a REAL ID to Fly?

Let’s make one thing clear: until the deadline (once again: it’s May 7, 2025), you can fly using any identification that you’ve used before.

When the day comes, however, your ability to travel within the United States will depend on the type of identification you have. In general, there can be three scenarios. Here’s a short breakdown for each one:

Scenario 1: You Already Have a REAL ID-Compliant Driver’s License or ID Card

Even in 2022, all 50 states and DC were already complying with the new standard, so those who’ve got their ID recently have nothing to worry about! US citizens with REAL ID-compliant licenses can use them as identification when going through airport security checkpoints and boarding domestic flights.

Scenario 2: You Don’t Have a REAL ID Yet

In that case, you won’t be able to use your standard driver’s license or identification card to fly domestically. Thankfully, a REAL-ID compliant identification is not the only way to prove your identity, as you can use one of the following documents as well:

  • US passports (both books and cards are accepted)
  • Foreign passports (issued by the government of the foreign country)
  • Permanent resident cards
  • Border crossing cards
  • Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (issued in certain states only)
  • Photo IDs given by a Tribal Nation or Indian Tribe that’s federally recognized
  • Department of Defense IDs

The list includes some other identity documents, see the full list on the official TSA web page. However, we recommend you take care of the matter with no delay and get a REAL ID-compliant license as soon as possible. Thus you’ll be less likely to face an unexpected travel delay in the future.

Scenario 3: You Don’t Have a REAL ID or Acceptable Alternative

In this case, make sure to get one before the deadline! Visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license and fulfill the requirements. Check with the DMV for specific information and documentation needed to obtain a REAL ID.

Conclusion

Although the deadline has already been moved three times, never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today. Visit your local DMV office the first chance you get and apply for that REAL ID card!

And if you need a picture for your new document, we’re here for you! Our website will help you get a valid passport or identification photo in no time and at a rock-bottom price. For example, you can get a CVS passport photo for under a dollar!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a REAL ID to fly in 2024?

No, you did not need it in 2023 and do not need it in 2024. The requirement to have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license (or an ID card) to fly within the United States has been extended to May 7, 2025. This means that until that date, a standard identification document will still be accepted for domestic air travel.

When does REAL ID go into effect?

Beginning May 7, 2025, every state and territory resident 18 years of age or older should have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification. When the date comes, these will be the only options to go through airport security checkpoints when boarding commercial aircraft to fly within the US.

How long does it take to get a REAL ID?

The overall time will vary depending on your state’s driver’s licensing agency and the demand for the service. According to the DHS, some states may be able to issue a REAL ID driver’s license or another identification in a few minutes, while others may take several weeks or longer. Therefore, it’s best to plan ahead and apply for a REAL ID license at least several months before you need it for air travel or other purposes. So, don’t procrastinate: contact your local DMV and find out exactly what documentation they require for REAL IDs.