After a series of postponements, REAL ID 2023 goes into effect on May 3. Then, Americans will need a REAL ID to fly domestically.
As we head into summer, domestic air travel has significantly recovered from its pandemic low. Overwhelmed with over-scheduling, staff shortages and bad weather problems, the airlines are cancelling hundreds of flights daily. Many of those air travelers experiencing canceled flights today may be canceled by the REAL ID 2023 requirement for flying U.S. domestic flights beginning on May 3, 2023.
Starting then, Americans age 18 and older will need a REAL ID driver’s license, REAL ID non-driver’s identification card, U.S. passport or passport card, U.S. trusted traveler card, and other compliant IDs to fly on U.S. domestic flights. (Americans need a U.S. passport to fly anywhere internationally, including our neighbors Canada and Mexico.)
While you’ll need a REAL ID 2023 to fly, you won’t need one to vote or get federal benefits.
While you’ll need a REAL ID 2023 identification to fly, you won’t need a REAL ID to vote or register to vote, apply for federal benefits, be licensed to drive or rent a car, enter U.S. national parks, social security offices, hospitals and clinics, purchase alcohol or cash checks.
Americans will need a REAL ID to fly domestically in the U.S. They’ll also need one to visit secure federal facilities such as military bases or any federal facility that requires ID at the door or gate.
Unless the rate of REAL ID adoption increases significantly, tens of millions of adult Americans won’t be able to fly domestically as of next May.
There have been numerous REAL ID deadline postponements to give Americans more time to obtain REAL ID-compliant identification, However, fewer than half of the licensed adult drivers in the U.S. have a REAL ID compliant license. The adoption rate of REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or non-driver’s IDs nationally was just over one percent per month prior to the COVID pandemic, but half that rate since then. With DMV offices open again across the country, it’s likely REAL ID 2023 adoption will be back to at least pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, that would still leave tens of millions of adult Americans unable to fly within the U.S. as of May, 2023.
Those without a REAL ID-complaint identification won’t be able to fly home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example, or to the funeral of a loved one or their parent’s next big anniversary celebration or a grandchild’s birth.
All fifty states, the District of Columbia and each U.S. territory except American Samoa are currently issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and non-drivers identification cards. American Samoa’s REAL ID compliance is currently under review. Therefore, most every American can obtain a REAL ID-compliant identification now.
What is REAL ID and why is it about to be required?
It seems as though many people today don’t remember what REAL ID is and why it’s about to be required.
Real ID is a 2005 Act of Congress, signed into law by President Bush. It modified U.S. law primarily pertaining to the security, authentication, and procedural standards for states issuing driver’s licenses and state identification cards.
Much of the impetus to pass the law came from the 9/11 Commission, which stated in its report,
“For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”
Under Real ID, each state is required to issue dependable driver’s licenses and non-drivers’ IDs They must be verified and listed in a national computer database system. The idea is to make it impossible or at least extremely difficult to fly using fake identification.
Citizens’ and legal residents’ identities must be confirmed before flying by Real ID identification. Domestic commercial plane flights presumably will be safer from terrorism than they are today.
Many states initially balked at the Real ID law. Some states objected to it as an attempt to create a national identity card. Others complained that the costs of the unfunded program were too high. Each, except American Samoa, have already succumbed to the law.
To obtain a REAL ID 2023, Americans need multiple documents, including proof of identity and lawful status.
Many who haven’t yet obtained a REAL ID-compliant identification don’t realize that they need multiple documents to obtain one. It may be difficult to secure proof of identity and lawful status.
To prove identity and lawful status, Americans will need governmental documentation. A U.S. birth certificate with a raised seal, issued by an authorized governmental agency, for instance. Or, you’ll need a valid, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card, or a certificate of U.S. citizenship. A Certificate of Naturalization or a valid unexpired permanent resident card (Green Card) are also examples of valid proofs of identity and lawful status. See your state, district or territorial government REAL ID identification office for a complete list of documents that they accept as proof of identity and lawful status.
Some Americans might have difficulties in obtaining a government-issued U.S. birth certificate.
Some Americans might have difficulties in obtaining a U.S. birth certificate from the state, District of Columbia or territory in which they were born. Hospital and midwifery birth certificates are not accepted for REAL ID-compliant identification. Part of the problem in obtaining an official birth certificate is that some states can take as long as six months to process them. That’s more than half the time left to obtain a REAL ID before the 2023 deadline.
You’ll need to provide your Social Security card when applying for a REAL ID 2023. The card may not be a copy. It must be an original issued by the Social Security Administration. If you can’t find yours, you’ll need to apply for a duplicate. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply.
You’ll also need to provide two proofs of residency from wherever you’re applying for the REAL ID. This is generally easy. Tax forms, your current driver’s license, vehicle registration card, or computer generated utility bill are all among the list of proof of residency.
If there is a chance you may fly in the future for any one of multiple reasons, get a REAL ID 2023 and start the process soon.
Many people have asked me if they really need to have Real ID-compliant identification. I tell them that unless they can absolutely, positively say that they never will fly domestically, then they need REAL ID identification.
If you need REAL ID 2023-compliant identification, start the process today. Locate the documentation you need. Many people who think they have a government issued birth certificate, for example, find out that it’s only a hospital version. Many can’t find their social security card that was issued when they were a child. It may take a while to amass all your documents. Don’t wait to begin the hunt. When you have them in order, go to your local state office handling REAL IDs and obtain yours.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.