If you are a regular air traveler, you may have heard of REAL ID. You may have also heard that the enforcement date was recently pushed back. Or, perhaps you’ve never heard of it at all. In all three cases, we have you covered.
REAL ID is something that will affect everyone in the USA who decides to fly via a commercial aircraft. Here, we’ll take a look at what it is, when it goes into effect, how it will affect you, and what you can do to ensure compliance. With that in mind, let’s get started.
What is REAL ID?
REAL ID is a set of minimum security standards used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. First created by the REAL ID Act in 2005, the goal of these standards was to establish a set of security protocols for issuing state IDs, including driver’s licenses. Prior to that, each state maintained their own standards, which could vary greatly from state to state.
At the time of this writing, the current deadline for REAL ID compliance is May 7, 2025. All state-issued IDs will need to be compliant by that day, after which the enforcement rules go into effect. Non-compliant IDs will no longer be valid for air travel.
While that date may seem like a long way into the future, it’s never too early to make sure your state-issued IDs are compliant.
What does it mean for U.S. air travelers?
After the enforcement date, travelers in the United States will need a REAL-ID compliant form of identification to board a federally regulated commercial aircraft. This includes all of the major airlines. If you don’t have an ID that conforms to this standard, you won’t be allowed to board the airplane.
For those who regularly travel, who are from the USA, this is a major threshold that could entirely affect your ability to travel by air within the United States. International travelers — those with a passport from another country — are unaffected by this change.
How do you know if your ID is compliant?
Depending on where you live in the USA, and the last time you renewed your state-issued ID, you may already be compliant. There will be a symbol on the front of the ID that declares compliance. Often this takes the form of a white star in a gold or black circle, or a freestanding gold or black star, or some combination of those symbols. Some states like Maine (the shape of the state in gold) and California (a golden bear) have their own symbols.
If you want to know precisely what REAL ID symbol your state uses, you can find a complete listing of them here. If your ID already has that symbol on it, you’re good to go. If not, you might look into renewing it in the near future so that you won’t have anything to worry about when active enforcement goes into effect.
Other forms of ID
Here’s a list of the other forms of TSA-approved identification besides a REAL ID driver’s license:
- S. passport
- S. passport card
- DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
- S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
- Permanent resident card
- Border crossing card
- State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- An acceptable photo ID issued by a federally recognized, Tribal Nation/Indian Tribe
- HSPD-12 PIV card
- Foreign government-issued passport
- Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- Transportation worker identification credential
- S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
- S. Merchant Mariner Credential
- Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
REAL ID FAQ
It’s only natural to have questions about this change, and we couldn’t hope to cover all the angles in a single blog post. If you have a question beyond what is presented here, we recommend that you visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FAQ for REAL ID, found here.
Travel plays such a key part of what we do, especially air travel. We know that for many of our clients, alternate modes of transportation may not be feasible. Travel by plane is bound to remain a staple of how we operate, as well as a major part of how our clients conduct their businesses.
That’s why it’s important to go ahead and ensure your REAL ID compliance now. If you have state-issued IDs that are not currently compliant, we would suggest renewing them, even if they don’t expire for a while. As the enforcement date gets closer, there will no doubt be many who wait until the last minute to get their IDs renewed, and you don’t want to get caught up in the scramble.
We recommend taking care of this issue now. That way, when the time comes, the impact will be minimal, and we can all continue on with business as usual with no bumps in the road.
If you have questions, and if the resources here don’t provide the answers, please reach out to us today. We’re always here to help.