Passed in May 2005, the REAL ID Act was implemented based upon the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and requires all United States residents to have a REAL ID by the year 2020 to board domestic flights. A modification to existing United States federal law, the Act is a nationally coordinated set of standards to ensure identification documents are more consistent and secure. Instituted as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001, the intent of the REAL ID Act is to hinder the ability of travel by terrorists using counterfeit driver’s licenses and identification cards.
The REAL ID Act has four phases but the one that impacts the majority of Americans is the need to obtain a REAL ID compliant with federally mandated standards. In early 2018, all 56 states and U.S. territories were either compliant or had received a program extension. As of October 10, 2018, that number had fallen to 37. Numerous states, California being among them, received annual postponements but many of these extensions expired and were in jeopardy of meeting their renewal deadlines because of the recent government shutdown. California’s renewal was due January 10th and was reinstated only hours before This extension grants the state yet another reprieve until April 1, 2019. If California’s program isn’t either compliant or extended once again after this date, all travelers, including the 2.5+ million Californians with REAL ID cards, will have to show additional proof of identification to board domestic flights.
Why will REAL ID holders have to provide supplementary identification? According to a recent report by ABC 7 News, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the implementation of the REAL ID Act, notified the California DMV in late 2018 that its REAL ID documentation process was inadequate. Homeland Security requires a minimum of two types of address verification to show proof of residency; the DMV only requires one. Because the DMV failed to meet the federal verification requirements, all REAL ID holders in California will have to provide this supplementary documentation to validate their cards. The application process is due to be amended this April requiring two unique proofs of residency.
Participation by states and territories in the Federal REAL ID program is technically voluntary but all federal agencies, including the TSA, are strictly prohibited from accepting a Driver’s License or identification card from noncompliant states for official purposes. This includes boarding any aircraft for a domestic flight for anyone 18 years and over. Children under 18 do not need a REAL ID.
As of October 1, 2020, every American or U.S. resident will need to have a valid REAL ID card to board a domestic flight, enter a military base and most federal facilities, unless they have other federally accepted forms of identification, such as a valid passport. To obtain a REAL ID, you must go into a DMV field office and provide original or certified documents proving your identity.
These documents include the following:
- Identity: An unexpired passport, birth certificate, or certification of naturalization or citizenship to name a few.
- Social Security Number: A Social Security card, W2, SSA-1099, etc.
- Residency (2 different documents): utility bills, property tax bill, title to real property, etc.
- Proof of Name Change (if applicable): Marriage certificate, adoption documents, dissolution of marriage document, document showing legal name change, etc.
A complete list of all documentation can be found here. Note that the DMV requires certified or original documents for items 1, 2, and 4 but will accept paper copies of utility bills, etc. Electronic documents will NOT be accepted.
Follow these steps to apply for a REAL ID:
- Schedule your appointment with the DMV online. Do this well in advance and be sure to go to a full-service field office.
- Complete the online driver’s license/identification application prior to your appointment.
- Gather all of your original or certified documentation and bring to your appointment.
Have additional questions requiring the REAL ID process? You can visit the DMV website or read the public G+FAQ on the Department of Homeland Security website.
With October 2020 looming, many people in the Silicon Valley and beyond are hurrying to obtain their REAL ID. Though this new form of identification will supersede your driver’s license allowing you access to board a domestic flight, you will still be able to use a valid passport, military ID, or federally approved document in lieu of a REAL ID. So, if you have one of these accepted documents, you can consider skipping the REAL ID process. Just be sure to bring this identification with you to the airport!
Wondering if you need a REAL ID? Click here to find out.