Don't wait to get a REAL ID driver's license
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

In exactly one year, on October 1, 2020, a standard-issue driver’s license will no longer be accepted as ID at U.S. airports. To be able to board a domestic flight, you’ll need to have a REAL ID driver’s license or an acceptable alternative like a passport. As we wrote early last year, next year’s deadline is an extension of an earlier deadline. There’s always a chance it gets extended again, but you shouldn’t count on that. One year from today, you should have a REAL ID driver’s license, and you shouldn’t wait until appointments start to back up to get one.

How to get a REAL ID driver’s license

If you’re wondering how to get one, you’re not alone. A survey conducted by U.S. Travel Association revealed that 72% of Americans either know that they don’t have a REAL ID driver’s license or could not correctly identify the REAL ID star icon on their licenses. Per this Mercury News story (that I’m featured in), this means that “millions could be prevented from boarding a plane because they do not have the required identification.” And even before that, writes the Mercury News, “travel experts are worried that many travelers will wait until the last minute, then face disappointment when appointments for a REAL ID application are only available months down the road.”

First, you should check your current driver’s license. If you have this star icon in the upper-right corner, you have a REAL driver’s license. If you don’t, you’re going to need to apply for one at a DMV or other approved location (like an AAA in some states). Because the rules vary by state, you should check your state’s DMV website for a list of items you can bring to prove your address and identity. But everyone that wants or needs help can use the following resources:

If you’re a resident of Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, or Vermont

In Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) “are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards and will also be accepted for official REAL ID purposes.” See more here.



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5 Comments On "Don't Wait to Get a REAL ID Driver's License"
  1. Caryn|

    The state trooper at my local DMV discouraged getting a Real ID on the driver’s license. His example was that if you you are stopped on vacation for a moving violation and the police officer takes your license, you won’t have the required ID to fly home. He recommended always carrying a passport while traveling and getting the real ID on a state issued ID card (separate from a DL). Any thoughts on this?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good question! I haven’t heard of that but maybe someone else reading this has.

  2. Richard Greaves|

    It seems clear that if you only have one form od ANY ID if you lose it, you’ll have trouble getting back into the USA.

    If you lose your passport or it’s confiscated – what’s the difference.

    Johnny, here’s where you can write about what to do. Registering with an embassy or consulate. What you should do to replace ID overseas – Who can help you? How would you demonstrate who you are without papers in a foreign land?

  3. Jim|

    The overwhelming majority of traffic stops DO NOT result in confiscation of driver’s licenses. If someone commits such an egregious offense while driving that requires an officer by law to confiscate that individual’s license, that individual has more serious problems than worrying about getting on a flight. I fail to see how this is a legitimate problem for most drivers/travelers.

  4. Anonymous|

    Since when don’t you get your DL back after being pulled over?? No one has ever kept mine!

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