Upgrade Your US Driver's License to REAL ID for Domestic Flights

Home to some of the largest airports in the US, traveling domestically from California, Illinois and New Jersey is soon going to bring in some changes. Starting October 1, 2020 travelers will need to upgrade their current driver’s license to a federally approved one in order to pass through TSA security check points at all US airports. While this applies to all domestic travelers and airports in the US, more than 37 of the states are already compliant, the remaining urge their residents to ensure they get their Real ID driver’s license before packing their bags for travel.

What is Real ID?

The new Real ID is a product of the Real ID Act of 2005 passed with an intention to counter terrorism, increase national security and prevent identity theft. Federally approved and inserted with a microchip, this will now be required as the mandated identification to enter a federal building, visit a military base or board a domestic flight.

Documents Required for Real ID

The best time to apply for a Real ID would be before its time of expiration, that is if it is before October 2020. In order to avoid the rush at your local DMV, go prepared with the following:

  • Identify the right DMV or one among the 60 expanded and newly added field offices to apply for the Real ID;
  • Confirm timings since some have also started offering Saturday services and extended weekday hours;
  • While DMV requires you to come in person to apply for a Real ID, make an appointment to avoid long lines;
  • Come prepared with the required federally approved documents meant to be scanned at the DMV–

    • Birth certificate or original Passport;
    • Document which identifies social security number;
    • Document reflecting applicant’s legal home address, like a recent utility bill;
    • Supporting documents if the applicant has changed his name recently.

Good to Know

While this is required for domestic flights starting October 1, 2020, it is not mandatory to have if that is not your intention. A state issued driving license with “Federal Limits Apply” printed on it, is still acceptable in all other places and one will have to use a passport, passport card or military ID to fly domestically after October 2020.