We’re less than a year from the REAL ID deadline. Here’s what to know.

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

If you don’t have a REAL ID starting on May 7, 2025, the TSA won’t let you through security checkpoints at any commercial airport in the U.S.

WASHINGTON — In less than a year, the Department of Homeland Security will begin enforcing Real ID identification for federal purposes, including for getting through airport security

On May 7, 2025, state-level ID cards such as driver’s licenses won’t be accepted unless they are REAL ID-compliant. 

The federally-mandated switch was originally signed into law by Congress in 2005, establishing “minimum security standards for license issuance and production,” according to the DHS website. 

The law, established four years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in response to federal calls for higher security standards in the U.S., has been looming for nearly two decades.

Originally, the law mandated the switch to REAL IDs by 2020, but that date has been pushed back year after year because of the logistical hurdles that naturally come with changing how hundreds of millions of people fly every year, as well as the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But DHS says the 2025 deadline is firm, meaning anybody without a REAL ID will need to get one in less than a year in order to use their driver’s license at an airport or federal facility. 

Luckily, you won’t have to carry any extra documents with you to the airport once you get one. The REAL ID is a replacement for your existing driver’s license or identification card, and looks almost identical. 

When is the REAL ID deadline? 

The deadline is May 7, 2025. On that day, the TSA at airports and security at federal buildings across the country will stop accepting non-REAL ID documents as proof of identity. 

How can I tell if I already have a REAL ID?

If you’ve received a new driver’s license or state identification card within the past few years, chances are you already have a REAL ID

Pull your driver’s license or identification card out. If it has a small gold or black star in one of the corners (or in California, a bear symbol), congratulations! You already have a REAL ID, and don’t need to do anything else. You’ll be able to use that ID as proof of identity when flying or entering federal buildings. 

If you have an Enhanced Driver’s License from Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont or Washington, those also are REAL ID-compliant. So even though most of those enhanced licenses don’t have the star marking, it’s still acceptable. 

If you’re not sure whether your current identification card is REAL ID-compliant, reach out to your state or local Department of Motor Vehicles. 

How can I get a REAL ID?

Simply bring a few key pieces of documentation to any DMV and ask for a new drivers license with REAL ID. Here’s what you’ll need: 

One document that establishes identity, date of birth, and proof of U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence, or other lawful U.S. status. A birth certificate will suffice for most people. Your Social Security number (card not required) or evidence of SSN ineligibility. Two documents to establish proof of residence in the state you’re getting the ID for, such as a utility bill, paycheck stub, or mortgage payment

Will my passport work instead of a Real ID card? 

Yes! Anything you would do with a REAL ID, you’ll be able to do with another federal identification document such as your passport. 

For a full list of federally compliant documents, you can read the DHS’s Real ID page here

You’ll still need your passport to travel internationally, including trips to Canada or Mexico and international cruises. 

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.