Why You Need The Real ID and How To Get One


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The Real ID is here and the countdown clock is ticking to get yours. Without one, you won't be able to board a domestic flight. The idea behind the Real ID is pretty straightforward - passengers need to have a new form of ID that's more secure - but the details on how to get one can be confusing and they vary by state. Here we've taken 10 states that are issuing the Real ID and details the specifics you need to know to get your Real ID.

The state's we've detailed in this post are: California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and DC.

Is the Real ID a Requirement?

If you don't have a valid passport and plan to fly anywhere domestically, YES, you need a Real ID by 2023.  According to the Real ID Act which was passed after 9/11, everyone in the United States will need a Real ID in order to get through TSA security at the airport.

Though the Real ID is a federal mandate, each state is in charge of how they issue the Real ID's. This means there are differences by state you'll need to know. For example, many states are already compliant and issuing Real IDs, while other states are allowing you to Pre-Verify with the IDs coming soon.

When is the Real ID deadline?

As of December 2022, the new adjusted REAL ID deadline is May 7, 2025. With millions of Americans needing to get a Real ID before this date, DMVs around the country are expecting to be jammed up for months. The Real ID paperwork requires an office visit, so you won't be able to just do everything online. Now is the time to get your documents together, get to the DMV and beat the long lines.

What you need to get a Real ID

For ALL states, the same documentation is required. You must have original documents to prove your:

  1. Legal Identity
  2. Proof of Social Security
  3. Proof of Local address (sometimes 2 documents)

*See the end of the post for a list of acceptable documents to prove each of these.

Do You Need an Appointment Get a REAL ID?

You can't get a REAL ID online, although you can upload your documents ahead of time in some states to make the process faster. You will need to visit a DMV or drivers' licensing office in person.

If you don't have an appointment, the process can take hours, so we do recommend making one.  In addition to saving time, some states are not currently accepting walk-ins at DMVs due to the pandemic. You can make an appointment online with your local DMV website, or you can make a DMV appointment here.

Acceptable documents to get your Real ID

1 Legal Identity

  • United States birth certificate with a raised seal, issued by an authorized government agency, including U.S. territories and Puerto Rico
  • Valid United States passport or passport card
  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship or Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Certificate of Naturalization

If you are a lawfully present non-US citizen, acceptable documents include:

  • I-551 Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • Passport with I-551 stamp
  • Machine-readable Immigrant Visa
  • Re-entry Permit I-327

2. Proof of Social Security

  • Social Security Card issued by the Social Security Administration
  • W-2 form including your name, address and entire SSN listed
  • SSA-1099 form with entire SSN listed
  • Non SSA-1099 form with entire SSN listed
  • Paystub with your name and entire SSN listed

3. Proof of local address (you need TWO) include:

  • Current, unexpired driver's license or photo ID card
  • Vehicle registration card
  • Auto insurance card
  • A computer-generated utility bill showing your name and address
  • A W-2 form
  • Tax records
  • Lease agreements or mortgage documents

*Note: All information and fees current at the time of publication. For Federal Real ID state compliance updates, you can visit the Department of Homeland Security here.


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