Did You Know US ID Laws are Changing?


Have you flown recently? You may have noticed conspicuous signs at security checkpoints stating that ID requirements are changing. This sign is referring to the Real ID Act of 2005, which requires states to follow “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses” as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

What is the Real ID Act

The Real ID Act implements the following:

  • Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards
  • Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
  • Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.
  • Introducing rules covering “delivery bonds” (like bail, but for aliens who have been released pending hearings).
  • Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorism.
  • Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders.

The Act was passed by Congress to make counterfeit identification more difficult to obtain or use. This came about after the 9/11 Commission, which suggested we strengthen our homeland security requirements. The Act contains details regarding new standards required to issue driver licenses or ID cards that can be used for official purposes.

According to the DHS, official purposes include: boarding commercial airline flights, entering federal buildings and accessing nuclear power plants.

identity documents

In December 2013, DHS announced that Phase 1 of the implementation would begin on January 20, 2014. This phase, along with Phase 2 and 3 affected relatively few US citizens. These phases are described by the DHS as follows:

  • Phase 1: Restricted areas(i.e., areas accessible by agency personnel, contractors, and their guests) for DHS’s Nebraska Avenue Complex (NAC) headquarters.
  • Phase 2: Restricted areas for all Federal facilities and nuclear power plants.
  • Phase 3: Semi-restricted areas(i.e., areas available to the general public but subject to ID-based access control) for most Federal facilities (subject to limitations described in the next section). Access to Federal facilities will continue to be allowed for purposes of applying for or receiving Federal benefits.

Phase 4 of the plan, which began January 22, 2018, is the one that affects all US citizens. It involves federally regulated commercial air flight travel for domestic US travelers. According to DHS, “passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is not compliant with the Real-ID act will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight [unless an extension has been granted to the state their ID originates from]”.

What States are Compliant

This might be an issue for you if you live in a non-compliant state and you plan on traveling in the next year. After October 10th, 2018, according to the law, residents of the following states and territories won’t be able to use their driver’s licenses as ID when flying within the US:

real id compliant states


  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Oklahoma
  • Kentucky
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine


  • Puerto Rico
  • Virgin Islands
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands

How Long You Can Use a Noncompliant ID

The states and territories listed above are not currently compliant They have all been granted extensions, ensuring that the residents in these areas can still travel domestically with their state-issued IDs. The extensions typically last until October 10, 2018, where they will be reviewed again for compliance.

If a state, i.e. California, is deemed compliant at that time then residents from California will be able to fly domestically with their current state-issued IDs until October 1, 2020. On the other hand, if California was deemed to be non-compliant with this legislation on October 10, 2018, then residents will not be allowed to fly with their current form of ID. They will have to use alternate identification to board domestic flights, such as a federally issued passport—which already follows compliance requirements. After October 1, 2020, all domestic air travelers must have compliant identification to board their flights.

Real ID License Requirements

For a driver license or ID card to be compliant, a state has to follow new protocols when issuing the ID. States must now require applicants to present the following documentation:

  • ID that includes a full name and birth date
  • Proof of birth date (typically a birth certificate)
  • Proof of resident status
  • Social security number
  • Proof of address
  • Real IDs must contain the following information:
  • Holder’s signature
  • Gender
  • Unique identifying number
  • Anti-tampering/counterfeiting measures

How to Stay in Compliance

If you’re worried about the law and how it will affect your travels, you have a few options. The easiest way to ensure to ensure you will be allowed on your domestic flights is to start traveling with a passport. By using a passport as your form of ID when traveling domestically you don’t have to worry about remembering if your state is compliant or not. You also don’t need to remember what dates you need to have a compliant ID or not. You’re already in the clear since passports are already compliant.

If traveling with a passport seems too cumbersome for you, you can also apply for a state-issued Real-ID. The application dates for vary depending on what state or territory you live in, so check on your local DMV’s website to determine when you can go in and get one. You will need more detailed identification information when applying for the ID, including these documents:

Proof of identity document:

  • A US birth certificate
  • Valid US passport
  • Employment authorization document
  • Permanent resident card
  • Foreign passport with approved I-94 form

Proof of social security document:

  • Social security card
  • Federal W2 form
  • Paystub with a full social security number

Proof of residence document:

  • Mortgage statement
  • Rental agreement

Another thing to note is that if you’ve changed your name recently—such as in a marriage or divorce—then you will need to provide certified copies of name change documents. The DMV states that if your name has changed multiple times, then multiple certified documents may be required.


This legislation is a big step forward for security in the US. It helps protect US citizens from acts of terrorism and violence. It also creates federal requirements for information found state IDs and also what it takes to get an ID.

Alex McGinness
Alex McGinness

Alex is passionate about making the world a better place. She believes she can change the world, and one way she can do that is by helping businesses grow online through digital marketing. She excels at branding, graphic design, web design, social media management, and content writing. Alex finds the most success when she is working with companies that produce services or products that make the world a better place. She enjoys working with a collaborative team that is organized, goal-oriented and harmoniums. At IDMERIT, she manages their digital presence online as their in-house marketing coordinator. Her goal is to showcase the IDMERIT brand as a leader in global identity verification services.

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