Everything You Need to Know About REAL ID

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. It was to go into full effect in October 2020.  Then we hit a bump in the road… well, let’s be honest.  A global pandemic collapsed the road and swallowed it whole!  Now travel is back and REAL ID is on the radar again. Here’s everything you need to know about REAL ID and your group travelers!

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Starting May 7, 2025, EVERY air traveler 18 years or older MUST have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.

Related Reading:  DHS Announces Extension of REAL ID Full Enforcement Deadline

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What is REAL ID?

REAL ID is the federal act requiring minimum security standards for state-issued identifications (like driver’s licenses). It prohibits federal agencies from accepting ID that doesn’t meet these standards for official purposes.

Purposes include boarding federally regulated aircraft, accessing federal facilities like military bases or federal courthouses, or entering nuclear power plants. REAL ID is intended to be a consistent safety measure for our national security.

How can I tell if I have a REAL ID?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, all REAL ID-compliant cards will have one of the following marks on the top of the card


If your ID doesn’t have one of these marks, it’s not a REAL ID!

Is a REAL ID the same as a passport?

REAL ID and passports are NOT the same. If you are traveling internationally, including Canada, Mexico, or cruise travel, you still must have a passport. If you are traveling domestically, a REAL ID or a passport is acceptable.

Does my student group need REAL ID to travel?

Students under the age of 18 do not need identification to fly in the U.S. when traveling with a companion. Students 18 and older will need a REAL ID or other form of acceptable identification.

Get REAL ID Ready

Is my state issuing REAL ID?

As of 2023, all 50 states are issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses and IDs.

How do I get a REAL ID?

Each state may require slightly different documents at its driver’s licensing centers so check the website before going in person. The minimum requirements are full legal name, date of birth, social security number, 2 proofs of address, and lawful status.

How much does a REAL ID cost?

Fees for a REAL ID vary by state. For example, in Pennsylvania, the cost is $30 plus the cost of license renewal. In Virginia, however, a REAL ID is $10 plus the renewal. Check with your state’s driver’s licensing center for rates prior to applying.

What if I don’t get a REAL ID by May 7, 2025?

If you don’t have a REAL ID or another acceptable form of ID by May 7, 2025, you will NOT be allowed beyond the TSA security checkpoint.

The TSA WILL accept U.S. passports, U.S. military IDs, enhanced driver’s licenses from MI, MN, NY, VT, and WA, and DHS-trusted travel cards such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST.

get groups ready for REAL ID

How Can I Help Get My Groups REAL ID Ready?

If we want to get ahead of what could be a giant headache for travelers and travel planners, continued messaging from the travel industry is critical.

TSA Director of REAL ID Simone Davis recommends adding website content about REAL ID.  The content should explain what it is and include the pending implementation deadline.

Other messaging might include targeted client emails, group presentations, and regular reminders over the next 18 months.

Taking proactive steps will help eliminate what could be a very frustrating time for you and your travelers.

Get REAL ID ready

Time for a #REALID

Yes, nearly 20 years and a pandemic have passed in the blink of an eye (ahem). But now you know that it’s time for REAL ID!  If you have travel plans that include a domestic flight after May 7, 2025, check this one off your list today!

Related Reading:  Travel Professionals Have Critical Role to Play in Readying Clients for REAL ID Requirements


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