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REAL ID Compliance Is Coming Soon!

by Amy Thompson

REAL ID is a joint effort by the federal government and U.S. states to improve the trustworthiness and accuracy of state-issued identification documents. Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require you to present a REAL ID compliant ID for domestic air travel or to access secure federal facilities or military bases. So, even though your current driver’s license may currently be sufficient for you to use domestic air travel and access to federal facilities and military bases, it may not be acceptable in October 2020. If you have another Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-accepted ID, such as an unexpired passport or valid Department of Defense ID, you do not have to get a REAL ID driver’s license for domestic travel. (For a complete list of acceptable IDs for domestic air travel or to enter federal facilities or military bases, go to


To apply for a REAL ID, you must apply in person to your state’s department of transportation or motor vehicles and provide documentation to meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Identity and legal presence (e.g., unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate)
  • Social Security Number (e.g., Social Security card or payroll check stub)
  • Residency (two proofs will be required; e.g., utility bills or mortgage statements)
  • Proof of any name changes (e.g., marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order for name change).

Your name must appear to be the same on these documents, thus the requirement for proof of name changes if one or more documents does not match.

Note: You cannot obtain a REAL ID by mail or simply renewing your current driver’s license.

To prepare for obtaining your REAL ID, (1) check with your state’s department of transportation or motor vehicles to be sure of the exact requirements and process for your state, and (2) plan time to gather your documents. (Federal regulations require that states verify original versions or certified copies of the required documents.) If you intend to get a REAL ID, be sure to plan ahead and, if possible, make an appointment. As the deadline approaches, longer wait times at DMVs are anticipated.

A REAL ID compliant ID will have a star on it, whereas a regular driver's license or ID will state "Federal Limits Apply." (See image below.) 

Internet links to learn more about REAL ID requirements in Virginia, Maryland, and DC follow:

For more information, see Homeland Security Frequently Asked Questions at and your state’s department of transportation or motor vehicles.

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