The Real ID Deadline Is Approaching—Here’s How to Be Prepared

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In less than one year, a major change is coming to the airport security process. Starting in the spring of 2025, all US fliers will need a new type of identification in order to make it past the TSA checkpoint and board their flights.

The new federal identification rules, called Real ID, are set to go into effect on May 7, 2025. After that date, travelers will only be able to use certain enhanced forms of identification at airport security. The new policies will apply to all flights, including domestic ones. The biggest change for fliers will be that a driver’s license will no longer be valid ID to present to TSA. Instead, all airline passengers in the US will need to show a Real-ID compliant driver’s license—which requires a few extra steps to get than a standard license—or another approved ID, like a passport or Global Entry card.

Although the rollout of Real ID has been postponed many times (it was originally supposed to be enforced way back in 2008), the May 2025 date seems to be more firmly set. So if you don’t have a Real ID-compliant form of identification, now is definitely the time to get one.

Fortunately, it’s possible to get a Real ID driver’s license at most local DMVs throughout the 50 states and the five US territories. The only catch is that it does require you to present additional paperwork and pay a little more than a standard license renewal.

Below is a complete guide to the new Real ID rules, including how to obtain a compliant driver’s license, what other forms of identification will be accepted, and what will happen if you show up at the airport unprepared.

What is the new Real ID requirement?

The regulation is part of a law passed by Congress in 2005, which set new federal security standards for driver’s licenses and other forms of identification used to board planes in the US. The new standards apply to all states and territories. After the rules go into effect, driver’s licenses and other IDs that don’t meet the new requirements will not be accepted by TSA for passing through airport security checkpoints.

Even if you have a TSA PreCheck or a Clear membership, you will need a Real ID-compliant form of identification to make it past airport security. A Global Entry card is considered Real ID–compliant and will be accepted under the new rules. Children under 18 get some leeway, as TSA does not require them to present identification when traveling with a companion within the US. As always, on an international trip, passports and other documents may be required by the airline or other agencies.

When is the Real ID deadline?

The new rules will go into effect on May 7, 2025. That's the date that all US residents need to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or other approved identification in hand to make it past airport security.

How do I get a Real ID driver's license?

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five US territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands) are now all issuing driver's licenses that are compliant with the new rules. You simply need to visit your DMV in person to renew or replace your old license with a Real ID version.

It's important to note that, confusingly, states that are Real ID compliant are also still allowed to issue licenses that are not considered Real IDs, so be sure to clarify with your DMV that you are requesting a Real ID.

Applying for a Real ID usually requires more documentation to prove your identity—and sometimes costs more—than obtaining a regular driver's license. Your state's DMV website should have a list of the required paperwork. Typically, the required documents include a birth certificate or passport, social security card, multiple proofs of residence in your state (like a utility bill or bank statement), and proof of US citizenship, lawful permanent residency, or temporary lawful status.

Depending on whether you already have a license or other factors like citizenship status, additional documents may be required or you may be eligible to substitute other documents for ones you may be missing (for instance, you may be able to show a W-2 form with your full social security number in lieu of a SSN card). Be sure to read the list of required documents carefully. The Department of Homeland Security has an interactive map tool on its site that navigates users to each state's individual requirements.

What other forms of identification work to board a plane under the new rules?

Valid passports or passport cards will still work to get you through security for domestic flights, and passengers will still need them to board international flights. Global Entry membership cards are also valid for domestic flights under the new regulations, as are various forms of military ID, tribal-issued ID, and other government-issued IDs. You can see a full list of accepted documents on the TSA’s website.

How do I know if my current driver’s license is acceptable under Real ID rules?

Real ID driver’s licenses are marked with a star in the top corner. (It’s worth noting one confusing state policy: Ohio's old licenses have a gold star, while its Real IDs have a black star.) Enhanced driver’s licenses—which are slightly different, but are issued by some states in addition to Real IDs and are also acceptable under the new rules—have a flag in the corner.

What about airports that accept mobile driver's licenses?

Earlier in 2022, TSA began allowing fliers with PreCheck to use a mobile driver's license uploaded to their iPhone at certain airports. However, the agency says that any passenger using a mobile driver's license still needs to carry a physical ID with them as a backup. So even TSA PreCheck passengers opting to use their iPhone to get through security will still need to have a Real ID-compliant form of identification on them.

What if my airport uses TSA’s new facial recognition technology?

Travelers flying out of the growing number of airports with facial scanners at the TSA checkpoint will still be required to present a Real-ID compliant form of identification. TSA’s facial recognition system, also called CAT-2, requires passengers to scan both their IDs and their faces, and the algorithm matches the biometric scan to the photo on the ID.

Does my child need a Real ID to fly?

According to the TSA, children under 18 are not required to show identification at the security checkpoint when flying with a companion. (The companion, however, needs a valid form of ID.) The agency does encourage travelers to double check their airline's identification rules for minors before arriving at the airport.

What happens if I show up at the airport without an acceptable ID under the new rules?

TSA says you will not be let through security, and you will not be able to fly. In rare occasions in the past, if a flier forgot their ID for a domestic trip, TSA might have worked with them to verify their identity in a different way—like by asking them certain questions about their personal information. But the agency says that after Real ID is implemented, those days will be over. "TSA has no plans to provide an alternate verification process to confirm a traveler’s identity," says TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. "Counting on TSA to provide that option to travelers who do not have a Real ID-compliant driver license or identification card is not a good strategy."

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler