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Getting real about Real ID: Here’s how and why you need to get one

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the federal government has postponed the October 1, 2020. No new deadline date has been announced. We will update this story as things develop.

Do you have a star on your license? Look for it on the upper portion of your card. If not, then you should think about getting a Real ID.

The Real ID Act passed in 2005 established a nationwide minimum security standard for issuing sources of identification.

Why do you need a Real ID?

If you’re 18 years or older and going to be traveling by air, entering a nuclear power plant or going into a Federal facility then having a Real ID is a good idea. You can still fly domestically and enter these facilities with other approved forms of ID (to see the TSA Approved ID list, click here).

It’s also a good idea to get a new Real ID license because technology has been introduced to make forging IDs much more difficult.

Getting Real ID

Here’s what you need in order to get the star.

  1. Proof of identity – An original or certified copy of your birth certificate or U.S. Passport
  2. Social Security Card or a federal tax form that has your full name and Social Security Number listed like a W-2, 1099 Form or a paystub
  3. Two (2) different proofs of your residential address (electric bill, bank statement, lease agreement, etc.)
  4. A name change document like a marriage certificate or divorce decree if applicable

For a complete list of the documents that can be used to obtain a Real ID, click here.

You must apply in person to obtain a Real ID. Fees vary between states.

  • Alabamians are encouraged to head directly to your local State Examiners Office after scheduling an appointment here:

You might bring along your current vehicle registration or title and proof of insurance just in case your renewing your driver’s license as well. It doesn’t hurt to have a few extra proofs of identity, SSN and proof of residential address papers with you as well.

What happens if you don’t have a Real ID?

Most notably, you will not be able to pass through the TSA checkpoint at the airport for a domestic flight if you are using your old Driver’s License/Identification Card. You can still use a U.S. Passport or any other accepted forms of identification. If you don’t have any acceptable forms of identification, then you will be turned away and not allowed into the terminal.

Federal facilities that you would normally show your ID to get into, will also need Real IDs to enter. The exception being existing areas where you don’t have to show an identification to enter like National Parks and museums.

You can still drive with a regular driver’s license. Children under the age of 18 will not have to obtain a Real ID.

Getting a Real ID
The different types of Real ID symbols on the new cards. Photo source:

When should you get a Real ID?

Due to Coronavirus, the deadline has been postponed. Many motor vehicle offices are now closed.