The REAL ID Act and What It Means for You

If you’ve traveled by air this year, you may have noticed some new signage around security checkpoints in airports indicating there are changes coming to the identification required to fly.


Starting January 22, 2018, the REAL ID Act takes effect and nine states will no longer permit travelers through security with only their state ID as identification. To get past the TSA security points, another form of identification will be required. These include a passport, permanent resident/green card, or a military ID.

Residents of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington will be required to show an alternate ID form to pass TSA security checkpoints, even for domestic travel. In accordance with the REAL ID Act, the IDs from these nine states do not meet the federal government’s minimum-security standards. For states to pass the government’s security standards, they must verify each and every ID applicant’s identity, put anti-counterfeit technology in the production of the card, and conduct background checks on those who issue driver’s licenses.

Only 24 states and Washington, D.C. currently comply with the rules set forward in the act. The remaining states have been given extensions (through 2017) to meet REAL ID standards.

Some states have started working on offering federally approved issued IDs that would not require a passport for domestic air travel. Check with your local government office to see if there is a different type of ID you can apply for if you reside in one of the nine states mentioned.

 See the Office of Homeland Security website to see what changes might be happening in your state. 

What is a REAL ID?

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. States have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before the passage of the Act.

Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.

Identification Allowed

Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint to travel.

  • Driver's licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (excluding licenses from the nine fore-mentioned states)
  • S. passport
  • S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated 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
  • S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • S. Merchant Mariner Credential


 Learn more about the REAL ID Act!

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