The Department of Homeland Security has announced a final deadline for REAL ID Act implementation: October 1, 2021. Although passed in 2005 to set stricter standards for identification, it has taken years for states to prepare for REAL ID Act compliancy and implementation. This deadline was extended from October 1, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Is a REAL ID Required For?

Starting October 1, 2021, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel. Additionally, a REAL ID-compliant ID will also be needed to enter federal buildings, military installations, and more.

Find out if you are REAL ID ready with the Department of Homeland Security’s new interactive tool here: https://www.dhs.gov/real-id. 

Which States Are Compliant?

All states and territories are currently compliant or under review (American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands). Until October 1, 2021, residents from these states and territories may continue using their driver’s licenses or identification cards, regardless of whether the license/ID is REAL ID compliant or not, for accessing federal facilities (including military bases), entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft.

Starting October 1, 2021, every state and territory resident will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license/ID, or another acceptable form of identification, for accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft.

What If My State Is Compliant, but I Don’t Have a REAL ID?

If you live in a state that is already REAL ID compliant but you do not yet have a REAL ID, please be advised that many states have experienced a backlog and delay in issuing new identification. Please anticipate a longer amount of time than usual to receive a new ID and begin the process as soon as your state and/or schedule will allow, if you plan to use your state-issued driver’s license or ID for needs such as air travel and entering federal facilities.

How Do I Know If I Have a REAL ID?

Most state IDs will show a gold or black star on the front. Some states have compliant identification without the star, including Hawaii, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah. If you believe your state is compliant, but you do not see a star on your ID, please check with your state department of motor vehicles.

Are There Acceptable Alternative Forms of ID?

Yes, there are other forms of ID that will remain acceptable for domestic air travel even after the October 2021 deadline. However, if you do not have any of these forms of ID and you plan to travel domestically by air with your state ID or driver’s license, it must be REAL ID compliant.

The below forms of identification will remain acceptable for domestic air travel even after the October 2021 deadline:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

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