The 2025 Real ID deadline for new licenses is really real this time, DHS says

The 2025 Real ID deadline for new licenses is really real this time, DHS says


If you plan on flying around the country in 2025 and beyond, you might want to listen up.

You have about 365 days to make your state-issued driver’s license or identification “Real ID” compliant, per the Department of Homeland Security.  

The Real ID compliance is part of a larger act passed by Congress in 2005 to set “minimum security standards” for the distribution of identification materials, including driver’s licenses. This means that certain federal agencies, like the Transportation Security Administration or DHS, won’t be able to accept state-issued forms of identification without the Real ID seal.

It’s taken a while for the compliance to stick, with DHS originally giving a 2020 deadline before pushing it back a year, then another two years and another two years after that due to “backlogged transactions” at MVD offices nationwide, according to previous USA TODAY reports.

You won’t be able to board federally regulated commercial aircraft, enter nuclear power plants, or access certain facilities if your identification documents aren’t Real ID compliant by May 7, 2025. 

Here’s what we know about Real IDs, including where to get one and why you should think about getting one.

Do I have to get a Real ID?

Not necessarily. 

If you have another form of identification that TSA accepts, there probably isn’t an immediate reason to obtain one, at least for travel purposes. But if you don’t have another form of identification and would like to travel around the country in the near future, you should try to obtain one. 

Here are all the other TSA-approved forms of identification:

◾ State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License

◾ 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

◾ An acceptable photo ID issued by a federally recognized, Tribal Nation/Indian Tribe

◾ 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

◾ Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

However, federal agencies “may only accept” state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards that are Real ID compliant if you are trying to gain access to a federal facility. That includes TSA security checkpoints.

Enhanced driver’s licenses, only issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont, are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards, according to DHS. 

What can I use my Real ID for?

For most people, it’s all about boarding flights.

You can only use your Real ID card to obtain access to “nuclear power plants, access certain facilities, or board federally regulated commercial aircrafts,” according to DHS.

The cards can’t be used to travel across any border, whether that’s Canada, Mexico, or any other international destination, according to DHS.

How do I get a Real ID? What does a Real ID look like?

All you have to do to get a Real ID is to make time to head over to your local department of motor vehicles.

Every state is different, so the documents needed to verify your identity will vary. DHS says that at minimum, you will be asked to produce your full legal name, date of birth, social security number, two proofs of address of principal residence and lawful status.

The only difference between the state-issued forms of identification you have now and the Real ID-compliant card you hope to obtain is a unique marking stamped in the right-hand corner. The mark stamped on your Real ID compliant cards depends on the state.

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