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Introduction to Real ID

In an effort to enhance security measures for air travel within the United States, the federal government has mandated a new standard for state-issued identification cards, known as Real ID. By May 3, 2023, travelers aged 18 and above will be required to present a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic flights and to access certain federal facilities. This guide provides a step-by-step approach to obtaining your Real ID, ensuring you’re prepared for the new requirements.

Step 1: Understanding if You Need a Real ID

First, consider whether you need a Real ID. If you don’t plan to fly within the U.S. or visit secure federal facilities, your current state-issued ID or license might suffice. Additionally, passports and some other forms of federal identification will still be valid for these activities. However, for convenience and compliance, getting a Real ID could be a wise choice.

Step 2: Gathering the Necessary Documentation

To apply for a Real ID, you will need to provide documentation proving your identity, Social Security Number (SSN), and residency. Typical documents include:

  • Proof of identity: an original or certified copy of your birth certificate or a valid U.S. passport.
  • Proof of Social Security Number: a SSN card, W-2, or pay stub with your full SSN.
  • Two proofs of your current residency: utility bills, lease agreements, or bank statements.
  • If applicable, documentation of any name changes.

Step 3: Visiting Your Local DMV

With your documents in hand, the next step is to visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It’s advisable to check if your state’s DMV requires an appointment for Real ID applications. Additionally, visiting the DMV’s website can provide specific details about the application process and any potential fees.

Completing the Application Form

At the DMV, you’ll be required to complete an application form for the Real ID. This form may differ slightly from state to state, so ensure you complete all required sections accurately.

Paying the Fee

There’s usually a fee associated with obtaining a Real ID. This fee varies by state, so check the exact amount in advance and prepare accordingly. Payment methods also vary, so confirm what your DMV accepts.

Step 4: Receive Your Real ID

After submitting your application and documentation, your Real ID will be processed. Some states may provide a temporary ID while you wait for your new Real ID to arrive by mail. The timeframe for receiving your Real ID can vary, so it’s best to apply well in advance of any planned travel.

Key Considerations

  • Real ID cannot be obtained online or by mail due to the requirement to verify documents in person.
  • Ensure all documents are original or certified copies; photocopies are not accepted.
  • Consider the timing of your application to avoid being caught in the rush before the deadline.


Obtaining a Real ID may seem like a daunting task, but with proper planning and preparation, it can be a straightforward process. Start early by gathering the necessary documents and understanding your state’s specific requirements. Remember, having a Real ID by the May 3, 2023 deadline will ensure you can continue to fly domestically and access certain federal facilities without interruption.