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Going to FNCC? You Will Need a Real ID


Come fall 2020, every U.S. air traveler will be required to present a Real ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification such as a U.S. passport, to board a domestic flight.

The change, the last phase of implementation of the federal law known as the Real ID Act, goes into effect Oct. 1, 2020. The law has changed how states issue driver’s licenses and identification cards, requiring residents to present more documents than were previously required to prove their identity and legal residency—and it makes the rules consistent nationwide.

If your license or ID card is marked with a star in the upper-right corner, it is compliant with the Real ID Act.

We’ve compiled answers to some common questions about the Real ID requirement.

What’s A Real ID?

A federal law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks tightened national standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards, overhauling how they are issued and produced, to combat forgery and fraud.

How is it being implemented?

Implementation of the law was first to take effect in 2008, but deadlines have been extended to give states more time to comply.

Five states and one territory—Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maine and American Samoa—have been granted extensions, with varying dead-lines for meeting the federal mandate. Some have until Oct. 10, 2019, to comply.

The last phase, affecting air travel, goes into effect next year. If your driver’s license or ID card is from a compliant state, the Transportation Security Administration will accept it at airports until Sept. 30, 2020. But starting Oct. 1, 2020, licenses and IDs from these states will need to bear the star that shows it meets the new security standards.

Do I need a Real ID?

Residents who want to use a driver’s license to board a commercial aircraft will need to get the new card by October 2020, when it becomes the only identification accepted by the TSA.

If you don’t need a license to board a flight, either because you don’t travel or you use a U.S. passport, you don’t need a Real ID.

If you get a Real ID, your standard license will continue to be valid for all the same purposes: driving, voting and as proof of identification to cash a check or any other daily business.

If I don’t have a Real ID come October 2020, are there other documents I can use to get through a TSA checkpoint?

Other acceptable forms of identification include a U.S. passport, a passport card, a military ID, a permanent resident card and other such options as a Global Entry traveler card. Visit the TSA website for a complete list.

What documents are required to get the Real ID?

You will be asked to bring two proofs of residency (utility bills, bank statements, etc.); proof of identity and legal residence in the United States (a birth certificate, U.S. passport or permanent resident card); and a Social Security card (not just the number). A W-2 form listing your Social Security number is an acceptable alternative to a Social Security card.

Residents who have changed their names from what is on their birth certificate need to provide documentation of the change (for example, a marriage certificate or a court order granting the name change).

The process will require an in-person visit to a DMV, even for those who have been licensed for decades.

When should I get a Real ID?

Ideally, you should apply for the Real ID card when you are due to renew your driver’s license or identification card. But, if you want a Real ID and your credential does not expire until after October 2020, officials are asking you to get all the required documents together as soon as possible and to not wait until next fall to get the new ID.

Anyone getting the Real ID this and next year should expect longer-than-usual waits at the DMV. State officials say they are adding staff to customer service offices, but demand could be higher because many people who are used to renewing their licenses by mail or online will be required to come in to the office for the Real ID.

Have more questions?

Visit your state’s DMV website, and search for Real ID for more details about how to get the credential in your area.

Adapted from a June 15, 2019, article in The Washington Post.

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