The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 as per the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation, establishes minimum standards for the issuance, security, and authentication of driver’s licenses and identification cards. The Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the minimum standards for boarding federally regulated commercial flights, accessing Federal facilities, and entering nuclear power plants.
On December 20, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act to implement it fairly and measured. The Department of Homeland Security states that it is committed to enforcing the Act in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and regulatory timeframes. Starting on October 1, 2020, a person must have a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card to access federal facilities, board commercial aircraft, and enter nuclear power plants.
REAL ID-compliant identification is marked with a gold star, making it easy for federal workers to distinguish between these compliant and non-compliant ID cards and licenses. However, there are a few states that have issued IDs without a star.
To receive a REAL ID, you must show proof of identity, proof of social security number, proof of address, and proof of all legal name changes. You must provide original or government-issued copies of all documentation.
It is important to note that not having a REAL ID does not affect your ability to drive, vote, or purchase items that require identification. You only need a REAL ID if you plan to board a commercial flight, enter a power plant, access federal facilities, or visit military bases.
As of September 2020, all U.S. states are REAL ID-compliant.
On October 1, 2021, full enforcement of REAL ID will take effect at all federally regulated airports, federal facilities, and nuclear power plants.