For now, traveling isn't possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, the upcoming Real ID rules will have a huge impact on domestic travel in the U.S., so you don't want to be caught unprepared once it's safe to fly again. The Real ID rules are 15 years in the making and have undergone several phases of implementation between different states, which has created some confusion - to say the least. Read on for our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about Real ID rules.
WHAT IS A REAL ID?
A Real ID is not an entirely new form of identification, rather, it's a driver's license or state identification card that requires additional scrutiny and verification to obtain. Otherwise, a Real ID-compliant version does not disclose any additional information other than what a traditional driver's license already provides.
WHY ARE REAL IDS REQUIRED?
This change in regulation is derived from the Real ID Act, which was passed in 2005 to increase domestic air travel security in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The anti-terrorism legislation set national standards for states in how they issue identification, such as driver's licenses and identification cards. These measures add extra steps to verify an applicant's identity, such as in-person appointments and providing various forms of identification. Additionally, the standards address counterfeiting by upgrading the technology used by states to produce the physical driver's license or identification card.
To determine if your driver's license or identification card is in fact a Real ID, check the upper right-hand corner of the card. If it contains a gold or black star, gold or black star cutout, or (in the case of California) a star cutout in a gold grizzly bear, then it is Real ID-compliant and you are all set. On the other hand, if you see either "Not for Federal Identification" or "Federal Limits Apply," it is not a compliant ID. A final caveat: Hawaii, Ohio, and Utah residents missing a star should double-check their status with their respective state government, as compliant identification without a star label has been issued by these states previously.
WHAT IS A REAL ID USED FOR?
Once the Real ID law goes into effect in 2021, a Real ID will allow travelers to pass through TSA security to board a domestic flight. A Real ID also carries non-travel implications, such as access to military bases, Department of Homeland Security, nuclear power plants, and some additional federal sites. It's also important to note that the rule change does not apply to driving, voting, applying for or receiving federal benefits, and accessing federal sites like National Parks.
WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REAL IDS?
Although Congress passed the law in 2005 and it was strongly supported by the Bush administration, many state governments across the country resisted the legislation to varying degrees. Utah's state legislature passed a resolution in 2007 that opposed the Real ID Act by unanimous vote. Twenty-four other states have followed suit in passing legislation against the Real ID Rules. The Real ID Act also received opposition from a diverse coalition ranging from human rights organizations concerned about the impact on immigrants to libertarian groups against federal government intervening in state-level affairs. President Obama vocally opposed the Real ID Act and did not push for its implementation during his presidency.