Real ID is a government-issued identification card that has become an essential requirement for air travel in recent years. It was designed to enhance security by providing a more reliable form of identification that meets certain federal standards. In this article, we will explore the necessity of Real ID for air travel, alternative options, how to obtain one, and potential changes in the future.

Everything You Need to Know About Real ID: Is It Necessary for Air Travel?

The Real ID Act was signed by Congress in 2005, following the 9/11 terrorist attack, to improve the security of driver’s licenses and identification cards. It sets minimum security standards that all states must follow when issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards. These standards include verifying the applicant’s identity using multiple sources, such as birth certificates and passports, as well as incorporating specific security features into the card that make it difficult to counterfeit or alter.

Currently, 50 states and the District of Columbia issue Real ID-compliant cards, and they are recognized as an acceptable form of identification for air travel and entering federal buildings. The cards have a star in the top right corner which indicates that it meets the federal requirements.

In terms of the information contained in Real ID, it includes the full legal name, date of birth, gender, address, and photograph of the holder. These credentials are stored in a secure government database and are only accessible to authorized officials, enhancing security and reducing fraud.

Real ID is now a necessary requirement for air travel as per the revised enforcement schedule, and unless you have one, you will not be allowed to board a domestic flight departing from any US airport.

The Ins and Outs of Flying Without a Real ID: What to Expect at the Airport

If you do not have a Real ID, there are alternative forms of identification accepted by the TSA, including a valid US passport, US military ID, permanent resident card, and tribal ID. In some states, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) can also be used as an alternative option, which are a step up from traditional state driver’s licenses and meet the federal Real ID standards.

However, if you still don’t have any of these alternate forms of ID, you can still fly under certain circumstances. In this case, you need to provide any other documents or IDs specified by TSA and undergo additional security screening before boarding your flight.

Therefore, it is always advisable to bring any document that proves your identity such as a birth certificate, social security card, or utility bill which can aid security personnel in assessing your identity and allowing you to catch your flight without any trouble.

Navigating Real ID: How to Get One and What to Do If You Can’t

If you do not have Real ID yet, you should apply for one as soon as possible to avoid any delays or issues when traveling domestically. In order to obtain Real ID, you will need to visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or licensing agency and provide specific documentation that proves your identity. The documentation requirements can vary by state, so you should check with your local DMV about the specific requirements for your area. However, in general, you will need to present the following documents:

  • One document proving your identity, such as an unexpired passport or birth certificate
  • One document proving your social security number, such as an SSN card or W-2 form
  • Two documents proving your residency, such as a utility bill or bank statement

Once you have gathered all the required documents, you can apply for a Real ID by submitting your application and any required fees to the DMV. The process of obtaining Real ID can take several weeks, so it is advisable to apply well in advance of any planned travel.

However, if you are unable to obtain a Real ID for any reason, you can still travel within the United States using other government-issued photo IDs such as a passport or military ID, which may be more accessible in some situations. Alternatively, you can choose to use non-compliant IDs and still fly but will be subject to additional screening at the airport, leading to more wait time at the airport.

What the Future Holds for Real ID: Updates, Changes, and Potential Impact on Air Travel

Currently, there have been no significant changes in the implementation of Real ID, and it is still required for domestic air travel and entry into federal buildings. However, some states have requested extensions to the compliance deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which case, a valid passport can be used as an alternative for a Real ID.

There is, however, a proposal before Congress to push back the deadline to 2023, citing the impact of the COVID pandemic. This would allow people more time to obtain their Real ID or get an alternate acceptable photo ID.

Furthermore, the use of Real ID may be expanded in the future besides domestic air travel. Supporters of the system argue that it could improve the security and reliability of identification for various other purposes, including voting, accessing government services, and boarding trains and buses.

The Great Real ID Debate: Pros and Cons of the Controversial Identification System

The introduction of Real ID has faced criticism and controversy from various groups. Some of the arguments for and against the system include:

Advantages of Real ID

  • Improved security: Real ID includes various security features, making it difficult to counterfeit and easy to verify.
  • Reduced fraud: Because Real ID is based on multi-document verification of identity, it is less vulnerable to fraud.
  • Facilitating air travel: Real ID replaces various identity requirements for air travel, making it easier for travelers by having them use one ID for the entire process.
  • Reduced effort to validate personal details: with the same data storage tools an individual can validate other vital information

Disadvantages of Real ID

  • Privacy concerns: Critics argue that Real ID creates a centralized database containing sensitive personal information that could be accessed by unauthorized personnel.
  • Costs and logistics: Implementing Real ID requires significant expenses and logistical challenges for state agencies, and may lead to increased fees and wait times for applicant.
  • Exclusionary practices: Some groups, particularly undocumented immigrants, may find it difficult or impossible to obtain Real ID, resulting in their exclusion from various activities, including air travel among others.
  • Infringement on state autonomy: Some states, along with their lawmakers believe the requirement that each citizen must have a specific federalĀ IDĀ in order to travel is an infringement on state autonomy.


In conclusion, Real ID is now an essential requirement for domestic air travel in the United States. While the documentation and the process of obtaining one may seem complicated, getting a Real ID before the deadline can help travelers move through airport security more smoothly and avoid delays. If you’re someone who has still not applied for a Real ID due to various reasons, alternate options like applying for an official passport, military ID, or Enhanced Driver’s Licenses can still grant you access to board a domestic flight.

By Riddle Reviewer

Hi, I'm Riddle Reviewer. I curate fascinating insights across fields in this blog, hoping to illuminate and inspire. Join me on this journey of discovery as we explore the wonders of the world together.

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