Illustration of a US domestic flight scenario. Show a diverse group of passengers in line at an airport checkpoint, holding their ID

Do You Need a Real ID for Domestic Flights in the U.S.?

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the type of identification required for traveling within the United States. Understanding the need for, and the implementation of, the Real ID can streamline your travel plans and avoid any unnecessary disruptions. Here, we delve into whether a Real ID is necessary for domestic flights in the U.S., what Real ID is, and what other forms of identification can be used if you do not possess one.

What is a Real ID?

The Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enforces the federal government’s standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting cards that do not meet these standards for official purposes. This act was inspired by a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to increase the security standards for state-issued IDs. Real ID-compliant cards are marked with a star at the top of the card. If your card does not have this star, it is not Real ID compliant.

Requirement for Domestic Flights

As of May 3, 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires all travelers aged 18 and above to present a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic flights within the United States. This means that if your current state-issued driver’s license or ID card is not Real ID compliant, you will need to obtain one should you wish to use it as your form of identification at the airport.

Alternatives to the Real ID

If you do not possess a Real ID, do not worry. The TSA accepts several other forms of identification for domestic travel. These include U.S. passports, U.S. passport cards, DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST), U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents, and permanent resident cards. A complete list of acceptable identification can be found on the TSA’s official website.

How to Obtain a Real ID

To obtain a Real ID, you must visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), bring the necessary documentation which often includes proof of identity, proof of Social Security number, proof of residency (two forms), and proof of any name change. The specific documents required and the process can vary slightly from state to state, so it’s recommended to check with your local DMV ahead of time or visit their website for a detailed list of required documents.

Final Thoughts

The transition to Real ID compliance represents a significant change in how Americans will travel domestically. The implementation of the Real ID Act is intended to enhance the security of domestic flights and ensure that all passengers are adequately verified. Whether you opt for a Real ID or use an alternative form of identification, planning ahead will ensure that your travel plans run smoothly. Remember to check your state’s specific requirements and lead times for issuing Real IDs to avoid any travel disruptions.