Want the real low-down on REAL ID? It’s here…


There is growing chatter about REAL ID, created by an Act of Congress in 2005 and placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Growing confusion, too, at TSA (part of DHS) security checkpoints, as signage warned ominously of a pending January, 2018 deadline for travelers’ permissible ID for domestic flights.

In fact, there are no changes to TSA’s permissible ID for domestic air travel, until October 2020.

In the meantime…

How did REAL ID become a thing?

REAL ID is federally mandated program to set “minimum security standards” for state-issued driver’s licenses, in order that they be permissible identification for, among other purposes, boarding commercial aircraft.

“Other purposes” include entering nuclear power plants. For most of us, that’s not quite the same as boarding a plane, nor are nuke sites a frequent destination.

The we-mean-business deadline for compliance by the flying public (and those who frequent nuclear facilities) is October 1, 2020.

By then, if you want to use your driver’s license as ID for TSA security in boarding a domestic flight, you’ll need to “upgrade” (read: replace)to your state’s compliant version of REAL ID. More on that below.

Of course, there are over a dozen other forms of ID acceptable to the TSA. Just not as convenient.

It is important to note that REAL ID is NOT another machination of the dark arts practiced by the current Administration. It just looks like it.

I’m no fan of the bunch in Washington, but in truth REAL ID came to life in 2005, a reaction to 9/11. Hardly a rational time, back then.

Over the next decade, there was stiff resistance to REAL ID among some states, arguing federal overreach, etc.

By the time the DHS announced the implementation timetable for air travel in January 2016, the opposition had quieted.

Now, all states have a compliant REAL ID program, or have been ‘granted extensions’ to put such programs in place. The hard stop is now October, 2020 .

Here is what you need to know about REAL ID…

  • First off, a REAL ID compliant driver’s license is necessary after October 1, 2020, only if you plan to use it for domestic air travel ID at TSA security (and other federal facilities) After that date, your standard driver’s license will not be sufficient (even if not yet expired) and you’ll need a second form of ID.
  • You do NOT need a REAL ID license to operate a vehicle.
  • You do NOT need a REAL ID license to vote or for most other ID purposes.
  • Yes, you can expect to pay more for a REAL ID license. New York State tacks on an additional $30 for a REAL ID license.
  • Across the country, the REAL ID license is designated by a star on the upper right corner. Here is New York’s version, compared to the ‘standard’ license. New York started issuing REAL ID licenses October 30, 2017.
Photo credit: NYS DMV

Getting a REAL ID

Each state has its own procedure, so obviously you’ll need to comply with your state’s DMV. However, as REAL lD is a federal mandate there are some constants. Most noteworthy: plan on doing this in person, at your friendly local DMV office, with your paper Social Security card in hand.

What, is that a hassle?

For many of us, it will take until 2020 just to locate or replace the Social Security card. In that case, the Social Security Administration website offers guidance on the replacement process.

New York State’s REAL ID process

I live in New York state, so by way of example…

It’s not often one gives the DMV a shout-out but New York does a good job to help you determine if REAL ID is right for you.

If it’s a fit, hit the blue “Get Started” button and you’re on your way.

The site takes you through required documentation, step by step, ending with this handy checklist based on choices you’ve made on the interactive query. Read the options carefully as you go through the questionnaire. Finally, at the bottom, is a link to the application itself.

Courtesy NYS DMV

Note that a REAL ID driver’s license will require a new photo. Lipstick is optional. Oh, and bring your passport.


Because this application must be done in person and the deadline is such a long way out, it’s easy to file under ‘do it later’.

Pro Tip: Put it on your “to do” list NOW and set a goal of completion by December 31, 2018, long before the deadline. Better yet, put it on your calendar, with a firm date for completion.

There are a lot of driver’s licenses out there that will be updated between now and then. Avoid the rush; 2020 is shaping up to be a very busy year.

© 3 Score and More 2017

Originally published at 3scoreandmore.com on November 15, 2017.