Imagine heading to the airport for a long-awaited vacation to Maui or off to Phoenix to visit family – when suddenly you can’t even make it past the security checkpoint. TSA’s reason? You don’t have the right driver’s license anymore.
Cue massive frustration.
Many of us use our driver’s licenses as a primary form of government-issued ID, especially at the airport when flying domestically. It’s something we typically always have with us. But a big change is coming – and it goes by the name of REAL ID.
Here are some key things to know:
- Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, your driver’s license will need to be REAL ID-compliant if you want to use it to fly within the U.S. It’s part of a law passed by Congress. If your license is not compliant, and you don’t have another acceptable form of ID, you’ll have trouble getting through airport security.
- If you want your driver’s license to be REAL ID-compliant, now’s the perfect time to make the upgrade because the rush is coming. State licensing agencies and motor vehicle departments are expecting long lines and wait times in the months leading up to October 2020. Why not check this off your list now?
- REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and the processes to get them are different state to state, which can be confusing. In most cases, you’ll need to bring additional documentation to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, and you might even need to make an appointment. A few states, like Oregon, have not yet begun to distribute REAL ID-compliant licenses, so residents should refer to their state licensing agency or motor vehicle department websites for details and plan accordingly.
- Many states identify their REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses with a gold star in the upper right corner, which indicates they’ll be ready to use at airport security checkpoints starting Oct. 1, 2020. But some states, such as Washington, do not use gold stars for REAL ID-compliant licenses.
- You do have a choice. Your driver’s license does not need to be REAL ID-compliant for air travel. If you want to fly after Oct. 1, 2020, with other acceptable identification – for example, your U.S. passport or a U.S. military ID – you can do that instead. Just remember to bring that ID to the airport.
“We always want our guests to have the best possible travel experience with us and at the airport,” says Wayne Newton, vice president of airport operations and customer service at Alaska Airlines. “We want to do everything we can to help spread the word about the upcoming changes with federal laws taking effect, and how our customers can get prepared.”
Click on the state where you live to find out more on how to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license:
District of Columbia