Real ID for Flying: What Travelers Need to Know
As of October 1, 2021, the Real ID Act will go into full effect, requiring all travelers to present a Real ID-compliant form of identification when flying within the United States. This new requirement has sparked confusion and concern among many travelers who are unsure about what exactly a Real ID is and how to obtain one. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to help travelers understand the Real ID Act, its implications for air travel, and the steps they need to take to ensure compliance. From explaining the purpose of the Real ID Act to outlining the application process, we will cover everything travelers need to know to navigate this new requirement with ease.
What is the Real ID Act?
The Real ID Act is a federal law that was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Its primary purpose is to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The Act aims to prevent identity theft, fraud, and unauthorized access to certain facilities, including airports. Under the Real ID Act, all states and territories are required to issue Real ID-compliant identification cards and driver’s licenses.
Real ID-compliant cards are marked with a star in the upper right corner, indicating that they meet the security standards set by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These cards are designed to be more secure and tamper-resistant, making it harder for criminals to forge or alter them.
Why is the Real ID Act Important for Air Travel?
The Real ID Act is important for air travel because it establishes new identification requirements for passengers boarding domestic flights. Starting from October 1, 2021, all travelers aged 18 and older will be required to present a Real ID-compliant form of identification at airport security checkpoints. This means that standard driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by states that are not Real ID-compliant will no longer be accepted as valid forms of identification for air travel.
Without a Real ID-compliant form of identification, travelers will not be allowed to pass through security and board their flights. This requirement applies to both domestic and international flights that depart from or arrive in the United States. It is important to note that the Real ID Act does not apply to children under the age of 18, who are not required to present identification when traveling with an adult.
How to Obtain a Real ID?
Obtaining a Real ID requires a few additional steps compared to getting a standard driver’s license or identification card. The process may vary slightly from state to state, but generally, the following steps need to be followed:
- Gather the necessary documents: To apply for a Real ID, you will need to provide specific documents to prove your identity, date of birth, social security number, and residency. These documents may include a valid passport, birth certificate, social security card, and proof of address such as a utility bill or lease agreement.
- Visit your local DMV: Once you have gathered the required documents, you will need to visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to apply for a Real ID. It is advisable to check your state’s DMV website beforehand to ensure you have all the necessary documents and to make an appointment if required.
- Complete the application form: At the DMV office, you will need to fill out an application form for a Real ID. This form will ask for personal information such as your name, address, and social security number.
- Provide biometric data: As part of the application process, you will be required to provide biometric data, such as a photograph and fingerprints. This data will be used to verify your identity and ensure the security of the Real ID.
- Pay the fee: There is usually a fee associated with obtaining a Real ID. The fee may vary depending on the state, so it is important to check the DMV website for the exact amount and acceptable payment methods.
Once you have completed these steps and your application has been approved, you will receive your Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card in the mail. It is important to apply for a Real ID well in advance of the October 1, 2021 deadline to avoid any last-minute complications or delays.
What are the Alternatives to a Real ID?
If you are unable to obtain a Real ID before the deadline, there are alternative forms of identification that you can use for air travel. These include:
- U.S. passport: A valid U.S. passport is an acceptable form of identification for domestic flights, as well as international travel. If you already have a passport, it is a good idea to carry it with you when flying, even if you have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card.
- U.S. military ID: Active-duty military personnel and their dependents can use a U.S. military ID as an alternative to a Real ID for air travel.
- U.S. Department of Defense ID: Civilian employees of the Department of Defense and their dependents can use a Department of Defense ID as an alternative to a Real ID.
- U.S. permanent resident card: Lawful permanent residents of the United States can use their permanent resident card, also known as a green card, as an alternative to a Real ID.
- Border crossing card: Individuals who frequently travel between the United States and Mexico can use a border crossing card as an alternative to a Real ID.
It is important to note that these alternative forms of identification may have their own specific requirements and restrictions. For example, a U.S. passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into a foreign country. It is advisable to check the specific requirements for each form of identification before using it for air travel.
The Real ID Act is a significant development in air travel security, requiring all travelers to present a Real ID-compliant form of identification when flying within the United States. This new requirement aims to enhance security and prevent identity theft and fraud. To obtain a Real ID, travelers need to follow a specific application process, which may vary slightly from state to state. It is important to gather the necessary documents, visit the local DMV, complete the application form, provide biometric data, and pay the required fee. Alternatively, travelers can use alternative forms of identification such as a U.S. passport or military ID if they are unable to obtain a Real ID before the deadline. By understanding the Real ID Act and its implications, travelers can ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience at airport security checkpoints.