Getting Real With the REAL ID
Laptop and plane ticket? Double check.
REAL ID. . . What?
In one of the biggest changes to airline security in years, U.S. residents will need to present a new form of photo ID if they want to board a domestic flight – and with business trips bouncing back in a post-pandemic world, you don’t want to get left grounded.
So, whether airline travel is a regular feature of your career, or you’re going to embark on your first ever out-of-state conference, here’s everything you need to know about the REAL ID – including how it works and what this means for your future travel starting May 7, 2025.
What is the REAL ID Act?
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It establishes minimum security standards for state-issued ID cards (such as driver’s licenses) and prohibits federal agencies from accepting any photo IDs that do not meet those standards.
(Translation: the federal government told states that their IDs needed to become more secure and more difficult to falsify.)
The Act also specifically aims to eliminate airline terrorism by increasing federal requirements for U.S. residents to obtain documents that would grant them access to domestic planes. As such, it prohibits TSA and other federal agencies from accepting any ID cards that don’t meet revised security standards for domestic air travel.
So What is a REAL ID?
A REAL ID is a driver’s license or state ID card that doubles as a federally recognized form of identification. Basically, it’s just like your ordinary driver’s license, but to get one, you need to present extra documentation to your state’s DMV or driver’s license agency.
How Do I Know If I Have a Real ID?
It’s possible that you have a REAL ID already and don’t even know it. How can you find out? Just look for the star!
If you see a little gold or black star in the upper right corner of your ID – hooray! You have a REAL ID.
If you don’t see a star OR your ID says something along the lines of “Federal Limits Apply” – well, uh oh! You only have a standard ID. This is not a federally approved form of identification and will not be accepted at US airports as of May 2025.
What if I Don’t Have a REAL ID?
After multiple deadline extensions during the COVID-19 pandemic, all passengers in the U.S. that are of 18 years or older will need REAL ID-compliant identification to board domestic flights officially beginning May 7, 2025.
It doesn’t matter how short your flight is, how prepared you were for this trip otherwise, or even how often you’ve used that airline before – if you don't have a REAL ID-compliant card, you don’t fly.
And who wants to deal with all the stress of missing a flight? Just think about it: that’s money lost on non-refundable tickets, additional charges in rebooking fees, replanning canceled itineraries – and that’s if you’re able to get a REAL ID-compliant identification card to even make your plans at all!
Who wants to miss that big client presentation they’ve been working on for weeks all because they didn’t have the right ID? Or even worse – who wants to tell their boss they can’t make a big presentation because they prep for a domestic flight? (Not me, that’s for sure!)
How Do I Get a REAL ID?
Still don’t have a REAL ID? Not a problem! You still have a couple of years to go before this mandate goes into effect. And lucky for you, a REAL ID is just a trip to the DMV away.
In general, you will have to provide the required documentation showing your full legal name, date of birth, social security number, two proofs of residency, and lawful status. Still make sure to visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website for additional required documents before booking your appointment.
Interested in learning more about REAL IDs? Check out the Department of Homeland Security’s official website for more information on deadlines, frequently asked questions, and more.
Here at Corporate Traveler, we may not directly manage REAL IDs, but we are always here to help your travel program run as smoothly as possible. If you’re a customer, reach out to us for more information on domestic travel in the United States. Otherwise, subscribe for more industry insights.