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Real ID requirement for domestic air travel moved to May 2025

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Third time’s the charm, says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which, despite a five-year delay, says it is one year out from implementing the Real ID requirement for domestic air travel.

“The Real ID implementation date is May 7, 2025. On that date, airline travelers will need to have a REAL ID-compliant state-issued identification card or driver’s license or a U.S. Passport,” a Transportation Security Administration spokesperson confirmed via email.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a Real ID?

Every state, along with Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, is issuing compliant IDs, so your license may already be a Real ID.

You can tell if your driver’s license is Real ID-compliant if there’s a star in the upper right or left corner, as shown below.

DHS.GOV

However, if your ID is missing the star or says something like “federal limits apply” or “not for federal identification,” your ID is not Real ID-compliant.

If you see the star but want to double-check, this tool will help determine whether your ID will work for air travel. You can also use that page to check individual state requirements.

DHS.GOV

In many states, getting a Real ID may only involve renewing your driver’s license; costs vary by state, ranging from $10 to $85.

Living in a state that issues a Real ID doesn’t mean you’ll automatically receive one, so be sure to ask for one if you want it.

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“Each state is encouraging its residents to be Real ID ready,” per the TSA spokesperson.

Can I still fly if I don’t have a Real ID?

DHS.GOV

When the Real ID Act is enacted, passengers departing U.S. airports will not be allowed through TSA checkpoints without a compliant Real ID.

If you don’t want to upgrade your driver’s license to a compliant version, you can still travel with a U.S. passport or any of the following TSA-approved forms of identification:

  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS Trusted Traveler card (Global Entry, Nexus, SENTRI, FAST)
  • Permanent resident card
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID
  • Border-crossing card
  • State-issued enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employment authorization card (I-766)
  • U.S. merchant mariner credential

Travelers under 18 need not provide identification when traveling with a companion. A TSA PreCheck card is not a valid form of compliant photo ID.

Could the deadline be pushed back again?

Even though the TSA says it will move forward with the Real ID deadline next year as planned, it’s reasonable to remain skeptical given previous delays to 2021, 2023 and now 2025.

“Travelers have seen this deadline slip so many times, and so far back, that they may understandably be tuning out the agencies’ messaging found at airports,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research, a travel industry analytical firm. “It will be critical for DHS, the TSA, and airlines to communicate the upcoming change later this year, ideally starting no later than the Thanksgiving travel period.”

Bottom line

DHS.GOV

For those who don’t already have a Real ID, you have a little less than a year to obtain one. As the deadline approaches, make an appointment at your local DMV sooner rather than later.

Also note that even if you have Clear or TSA PreCheck, you still need an ID matching Real ID requirements.

“Should the deadline slip modestly, I suspect travelers will understand. But if the deadline slips more than three months, especially if this occurs at the last minute, I’m concerned DHS and TSA will lose their remaining credibility,” warned Harteveldt. “Travelers will engage in a massive communal eye-roll. It will be like the fable of the boy who cried wolf — when the agencies are ready to implement, no one will believe them.”

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