If you’re a U.S. resident, obtaining a real ID is an important step in verifying your identity and enabling you to travel domestically. As of May 3, 2023, anyone without a real ID or an alternative form of accepted identification will not be able to board a domestic flight or visit federal facilities. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about obtaining a real ID, including a step-by-step guide, common questions, personal experiences, comparisons to other types of ID, and tips and tricks to make the process go smoothly.
The process of obtaining a real ID can vary slightly depending on the requirements in your state. Here are general guidelines you should follow:
1. Research the Requirements for Your State
Before starting the process of obtaining a real ID, research what documents are required by your state’s DMV or other designated location. Common documents required include your birth certificate (or a certificate of naturalization or citizenship), Social Security card, and proof of address (such as a utility bill).
2. Gather the Necessary Documents
Once you’ve identified the required documents, gather them together and make sure they are in good condition. You may need to obtain duplicates or renew certain documents before being eligible for a real ID.
3. Make an Appointment at a Local DMV or Other Designated Location
Many states require that you make an appointment at a designated location (such as a DMV) to obtain your real ID. Make sure to schedule your appointment in advance to avoid long wait times and to ensure you have all necessary documents and information at hand.
4. Pay the Fees
Obtaining a real ID typically requires payment of a fee. Check the requirements in your state for the specific fee amount and whether payment can be made in cash, check, or credit card.
5. Complete the Application and any Necessary Tests
During your appointment, you will complete an application for a real ID and may need to pass certain tests (such as a vision test) to be eligible. Make sure to answer all questions truthfully and accurately to avoid any delays or complications.
6. Wait for Your New ID to Arrive in the Mail
Once your application has been processed and approved, you will receive your new real ID in the mail within a few weeks. Check the estimated timeline given by your state to know when to expect your real ID.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions people have about obtaining a real ID:
Is a Real ID Required for Domestic Travel?
As of May 3, 2023, a real ID or alternative form of accepted identification will be required for domestic air travel and entrance into federal facilities.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Real ID?
The process of obtaining a real ID can vary depending on the requirements in your state and how long it takes to gather the necessary documents, make an appointment, and complete the application and any necessary tests. In general, however, you should expect to receive your new real ID within a few weeks after your application has been approved.
Can You Use a Passport Instead of a Real ID?
Yes, a valid U.S. passport is an alternative form of accepted identification for domestic air travel and entrance into federal facilities.
What Happens If You Don’t Have All the Required Documents?
If you don’t have all the required documents, you may not be eligible for a real ID. Before starting the process, make sure to research the requirements in your state and gather all necessary documents to avoid any setbacks.
One individual recently went through the process of obtaining a real ID and shared their experience:
What Documents Were Needed and Where They Got Them
The individual needed their birth certificate, Social Security card, and proof of address. They obtained their birth certificate from their state’s vital records department and their Social Security card from the Social Security Administration. They used a utility bill as proof of address.
How Long the Process Took
The individual spent a few weeks gathering the necessary documents and making an appointment at their local DMV. Once at their appointment, it took less than an hour to complete the application and necessary tests. They received their new real ID in the mail within two weeks.
Any Unexpected Setbacks or Helpful Tips
The individual did not face any unexpected setbacks during the process. A helpful tip they shared was to double-check the requirements before starting the process and to make sure to have extra copies of documents on hand, just in case.
Comparison with Other Types of ID
Here is a comparison of a real ID with other types of ID such as a driver’s license or passport:
What Types of ID Are Accepted for Domestic Travel?
A real ID, a valid U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST), and U.S. Department of Defense ID are all acceptable forms of identification for domestic travel.
The Pros and Cons of Each Type of ID
A real ID is a convenient form of identification for those who do not have a passport and only travel domestically. However, a passport offers more flexibility for international travel. A driver’s license may be a acceptable form of ID in some instances, but a real ID or passport is required for domestic air travel and entrance into federal facilities.
How to Determine Which Type of ID Is Right for You
Determine which type of ID is right for you by considering whether you travel or plan to travel domestically or internationally, how frequently you travel, and the cost and convenience of each type of ID.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks to obtain a real ID faster and with less hassle:
Double-Check the Requirements Before Starting the Process
Make sure to double-check the requirements in your state and make sure you have all necessary documents to avoid any setbacks.
Make an Appointment Instead of Walking In
Making an appointment will help you avoid long wait times and ensure you have all necessary documents and information at hand during your appointment.
Bring Extra Copies of Documents Just in Case
Bring extra copies of your documents to your appointment in case of an oversight or an extra requirement.
Use a Checklist or Online Resources to Stay Organized
Use a checklist or online resources to stay organized during the process of obtaining your real ID.
Obtaining a real ID is an important step for U.S. residents who plan to travel domestically or visit federal facilities. By following our comprehensive guide, answering common questions, sharing personal experiences, comparing to other types of ID, and using tips and tricks, you can make the process of obtaining a real ID go smoothly. Remember to double-check the requirements in your state, gather all necessary documents, and make an appointment to save time and avoid any complications in the process.