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Beginning October 1, 2021, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer accept previous versions of driver’s licenses as identification. Every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need 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.
Driver’s licenses with stars in the upper corner are REAL ID compliant, meaning that they are more secure than older versions. The rules were first announced back in 2005, when Congress passed the REAL ID Act on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.
The law is intended to create a national standard for citizen identification and make sure every state has a compliant driver’s license.
Starting one year from now, air travelers without a REAL ID will have to bring an alternative form of acceptable ID to the airport or be turned away at the security checkpoint. The list of acceptable IDs includes a passport; a military ID; a border ID card; a trusted traveler card, such as Global Entry; a permanent resident card; and other documents.
Five states (Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington) also issue an enhanced driver’s license (EDL) as a proof of identity and U.S. citizenship. It serves not only as a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license for domestic air travel but it also allows re-entry into the U.S. at land and sea borders when coming from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Instead of a star in the upper right corner, EDLs have an American flag in the lower right corner.
Originally, the REAL ID deadline was October 1, 2020, but the date was pushed back one full year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As of now, the 50 states have issued more than 105 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This figure represents 38 percent of all driver’s licenses and identification card holders.
The DHS recently announced that, more than 15 years after Congress passed the REAL ID Act, all 50 states are finally in full compliance issuing complaint cards.
If your card does not have the star, you can continue to use the card after October 1, 2021, but it will only be accepted for state-related purposes such as driving (driver license only), banking, and voting. It will not be accepted as identification for federal purposes.
It is presumed by many that one of the purposes of the REAL ID is to develop a ‘big-brother’ styled national ID card since it is collecting identifying information about every citizen over the age of 18. While the TSA denies this, clerks in various state drivers’ license agencies are openly describing it as such.
If you don’t currently have a REAL ID, you’ll need to plan ahead to get one. Obtaining a REAL ID requires an in-person visit to a Department of Motor Vehicles office with additional paperwork. You can find a list of required documents on your state’s DMV website.
As an example, the State of Texas has the following requirements:
“You MUST bring to the office the following original or certified proof documents:
- An original or certified copy of a Birth Certificate issued by a State Bureau of Vital Statistics or equivalent Agency from a U.S. State, U.S. Territory, the District of Columbia or an unexpired U.S. Passport Book or Card
- Social Security Card
- Current Texas Vehicle Registration or Title
- Current Automobile Insurance Policy or an Automobile Insurance Statement
- If the name on your license, permit, or non-driver ID application does not match the name on your identity, lawful status, and social security proofs you must bring in court- or government-issued proof(s) documenting the event(s) causing your name change(s) such as a marriage license(s), divorce decree(s), adoption, or court order document(s).”
Lastly, applying for a REAL ID requires getting a new photo. So if you haven’t had a haircut since the pandemic began, it might be high time.
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