After the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government began drafting a set of laws called the REAL ID Act. The act, which was passed in 2005, changed how every state issues driver’s licenses and ID cards, creating federal standards that they must comply with.
In the past, each state had its own application process and documentation requirements. Now, states must adhere to the standards put in place by the REAL ID Act. If a state does not meet these new requirements, IDs issued by that state will not be accepted at federal facilities or airports.
Each state licensing agency, usually the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), is now required to see the following documents before issuing a driver’s license or ID card:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of Social Security number
- Proof of residency (2 different documents required)
However, you can use one document for multiple purposes. A certified copy of your birth certificate, for example, verifies both your identity and citizenship.
After many delays, the REAL ID Act is set to go into effect on May 7th, 2025. Once it goes into effect, you will be required to show a REAL ID-compliant form of identification when flying domestically, as well as entering a federal facility or nuclear power plant.
Although the act is not yet in effect, every U.S. state is already compliant and issuing REAL IDs. In fact, if you have recently gotten a new license ID, it is likely REAL ID compliant. Most REAL IDs feature a gold or black star on the front. However, a few states do not include a star, so you’ll need to check the features for your state’s REAL IDs to be sure. In addition, U.S. passports already meet the REAL ID standards, so you can use your valid passport, as well.