Yes, it’s really happening this time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin enforcing its new REAL ID requirement for U.S. travelers taking domestic flights or entering federal facilities on May 2, 2023.
As of that date, every American traveler 18 years of age and older will have to provide a state-issued, enhanced driver’s license or identification card, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification (e.g., a passport).
Long story short, the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks spurred a push by Congress at the time to update the minimum standards for driver’s licenses and state IDs with the goal of strengthening security on domestic flights and at government facilities.
The REAL ID Act was actually passed in 2005, but it has taken federal and state governments this long to coordinate the planning and production of these documents to meet the upgraded federal standards that it set.
Thanks to the pandemic, the REAL ID requirement’s enforcement deadline has already been pushed back more than once. So, if you haven’t applied for one yet, it’s time to get moving.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia and four of five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with security standards, and are issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards.
It’s worth noting that the states are still permitted to issue driver’s licenses and ID cards that aren’t REAL ID documents, so it’s important to ensure that you specifically request a REAL ID from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
It’s especially important to verify that you’re getting the new REAL ID, as the REAL ID-compliant enhanced cards themselves don’t look too much different from the old driver’s licenses and their appearances will vary in accordance with the style of the state that’s issuing them.
However, REAL IDs are marked with a gold, black or white star in the upper right-hand corner of the card—except for California, where the star is positioned inside the image of the state (now extinct) grizzly bear.
According to Yahoo News, Americans with TSA PreCheck or who are enrolled in CLEAR will still be required to provide a REAL ID, or another acceptable and valid form of identification (listed here) in order to pass through TSA airport checkpoints.
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