Still Haven't Got Your Real ID? Here's the Deadline to Have It When Flying

Domestic flights will require a Real ID or a passport to fly. Here's what you need to know.

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Dan Avery
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3 min read
Woman at airport checking ID

In 2022, the Department of Homeland Security extended the deadline for enforcing the Real ID Act again to give residents more time to obtain a compliant license or identification.

Terry Vine

The deadline for getting a Real ID has been postponed several times in the past few years, with the first slated deadline for 2020. After multiple extensions, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the deadline has finally been set for May 7, 2025. That means you have just over one year to schedule an appointment to get a Real ID-compliant license or identification card.

The Real ID Act, which enforces consistent and secure standards for identification used in air travel and entering federal facilities, was passed in 2007. Once it's in place, US residents over 18 will need to present a Real ID-enhanced driver's license or another federally approved identification -- like a passport -- to fly domestically.

Here's everything you need to know about Real ID, including where to apply, what you'll need to bring and what happens if you don't have one after the 2025 deadline. For more on travel regulations, find out how to renew your passport online and the steps to take if your flight is delayed or canceled.

What is Real ID?

Real ID enhanced California driver's license

Real IDs won't be required at airport security until 2025.


Essentially, Real ID is an enhanced version of your standard state driver's license or identification card, intended to help authorities crack down on terrorism and identity fraud.

Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia are complying with Real ID standards, DHS said. If you recently renewed your driver's license it's likely already compliant. If it's been a few years, you'll probably have to get it updated.

Stars on the Real ID

Real ID-approved licenses will have one of these stars in the upper-right corner.

Department of Homeland Security

You can tell by looking at your license: If there is a gold, black or white star in the upper-right corner, you have a Real ID. (There are some minor variations -- California places a white star over the state's bear logo, while Maine puts it in an outline of the state.)

What do I need to get a Real ID card?

Real ID sample

An example of a driver's license with a Real ID logo.

Ohio Department of Public Safety

Whatever state agency issued your driver's license is responsible for distributing Real IDs. The paperwork required will vary but typically it includes proof of identity and status as a US resident or citizen, proof of your Social Security number and multiple proofs of your current address.
Originals or hard copies of documentation -- birth certificate, Social Security card, US passport -- are required, with photocopies and screenshots not accepted. Check your state's driver's licensing agency website for more specifics.

After you apply, you should receive a temporary paper ID until your Real ID-compliant license arrives in the mail about three or four weeks later.

With a few exceptions, the cost of getting a Real ID-compliant license is the same as renewing your license or non-driving identification card. 

What happens once the Real ID Act is enforced? 

Beginning in May 2025 -- unless the deadline is extended again -- federal agencies like the Transportation Security Administration will only accept Real ID-approved licenses and identification cards "for purposes of accessing federal facilities," according to DHS. 

That includes airport security checkpoints.

Without one, US adults will have to show a valid passport, even to fly domestically, or one of these other forms of ID:

Not having a Real ID-compliant license will not affect other uses of a driver's license, including verifying an individual's ability to operate a vehicle or purchase alcohol, firearms or tobacco.