The Department of Homeland Security recently standardized identification requirements for citizens, residents, and even undocumented aliens. The REAL ID Act requires each state to increase their scrutiny when issuing drivers a new license or permit. State issued identification cards now require the same measures, and there is no room for negotiation. Without a REAL ID, even domestic air travel will soon be restricted.



Although the media hype makes the REAL ID seem new, this initiative has been underway since 2005. Congress passed this Act as part of a larger anti-terrorism campaign. The goal of the REAL ID mandate is to ensure that local and state agencies are obtaining background documentation on all new applicants or current holders of state identification cards and driving licenses.


Acceptable Documentation

The program requires additional paperwork for many residents. The federal government has placed responsibility on individual states to confirm resident status and increase security measures when issuing new state documents. Applicants must provide proof of residency, such as a birth certificate. A card issued from the Social Security Administration is also required in order to obtain a REAL ID. Finally, all applicants must provide verification of their address. States have been given ample time to phase in REAL ID compliance, and many were proactive. All states must be compliant by the October 2020 deadline.


REAL ID Verification

Every state has a plan in place to notify drivers about their status. Many states, such as Maryland and California, have already started an email campaign. These messages provide cardholders and licensed drivers with a deadline to produce documentation for a REAL ID. In order to streamline the number of visitors who need to make the change, some states have opened temporary kiosks. This option allows the main full service motor vehicle offices to continue their normal operations without being impacted by the overflow of REAL ID consumers.


Every state is required to provide a universal symbol in the upper right corner of the license or identification card to verify that it has been REAL ID certified. The symbol is most commonly a black or gold star. Identification documents issued before a state became fully compliant with REAL ID are not valid under the new regulation. Any resident who has recently moved or has not received communication from their state’s department of transportation should contact their local office to confirm their REAL ID status.

Kelly Hoggan Aviation Security Footer