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Don’t have a Real ID yet? Everything you need to know, including new deadline

In March, Acting Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf announced that the department would delay the requirement to have a Real ID to board domestic flights in the United States to Oct. 1, 2021.

Dozens of people wait in line at the Secretary of State office inside the Thompson Center, many waiting to get their “Real ID” earlier this year.
Dozens of people wait in line at the Secretary of State office inside the Thompson Center, many waiting to get their “Real ID” earlier this year.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

If you still don’t have the travel-compliant Real ID, you can move that item down your to-do list. The countdown clock has reset because of the coronavirus pandemic, giving you another year to get yourself a compliant ID before the new deadline of Oct. 1, 2021.

The original Oct. 1, 2020, deadline was supposed to mark the completion of the final phase of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which Congress passed on recommendation from the 9/11 Commission after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That act aims to provide “minimum security standards” for the issuance of identification nationwide. It requires Americans to have a compliant ID to board U.S. domestic flights. (A passport has and will continue to be required for international flights.)

But the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed that plan. On March 26, Acting Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf announced that the department would delay the requirement to have a Real ID to board domestic flights in the United States.

What if my driver’s license is about to expire?

Some states have extended the expiration of driver’s licenses amid the coronavirus pandemic, so check with your state’s driver’s license agency.

What happens if I try to fly with an expired license?

If your license expired after March 1, 2020, and you’ve been unable to get it renewed, don’t worry. The Transportation Security Administration states on its website that it will accept licenses for up to a year after expiration.

How do I know if I have a Real ID-compliant license?

Here’s how you do it: Look at your driver’s license or state ID. If you see a gold star in the upper right corner, your ID is likely compliant, though the TSA notes that legacy Ohio driver’s licenses have a gold star marking on the card, and Real ID-compliant Ohio driver’s licenses have a black cut-out star instead. If you aren’t sure whether your card is compliant, contact your state’s driver’s license agency.

If you do not see a star, then you’ll need to either get a new ID or use another TSA- approved form of identification, such as a passport, passport card or military ID, when you fly after Oct. 1, 2021.

Where do I get a Real ID?

The Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID website has state-by-state information. But make sure you check with your state’s issuing agency for up-to-date information on hours, whether you need to make an appointment and any other COVID-19 protocols.

What documents to you need when you get your Real ID?

In the meantime, you can start collecting the documents you need to get your Real ID. You need four documents to obtain one. These include:

1. Proof of identity

Bring ONE of the following items:

  • Certified birth certificate
  • U.S. passport
  • Passport card

2. Proof of Social Security number

Bring ONE of the following items:

  • Social Security card
  • W-2 form

3. Proof of residency

Bring TWO of these showing your current address:

  • Utility bill
  • Credit card statement
  • Bank statement
  • Insurance policy

What about my kids?

The TSA does not require IDs for children younger than 18 if they are traveling with an adult within the United States. However, the agency recommends checking with your airline for its specific requirements.

How much does it cost?

It varies by state. Check with your state’s driver’s license agency.

Can I use another form of ID?

According to the TSA website, you can show any of the following to board a domestic flight in the United States after Oct. 1, 2021:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • State-issued enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • 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