The Real ID Transition: Everything You Need to Know

The Real ID Transition: Everything You Need to Know

The countdown is on — do you know what you need to do to get the appropriate ID card in time for next fall?

By October 2020, all domestic travelers planning to use a driver’s license for ID will need to update to the new, most secure option. Getting the new ‘Real ID’ requires some extra steps and further documents, so it’s probably a smart idea to start getting your ducks in a row now.

Here’s everything you need to know about what the Real ID is and how to get it.

The Real ID: What is it?

This new identification requirement is the last phase of the implementation of the Real ID Act. The Real ID Act is a law that was enacted after the September 11, 2001 attacks in an effort to tighten national standards for driver’s license and ID cards. The purpose of this movement is to reduce and eliminate forgery and fraudulent identification cards, and is the result of recommendations from the 9/11 commission because 18 out of the 19 September 11 hijackers obtained state IDs, some fraudulently.

This law has changed how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards, requiring residents to present even more documents proving identity and residency. This law also makes requirements and rules consistent nationwide, ensuring the same standards and level of security in each state. In order to be granted a Real ID, residents are required to present a birth certificate, Social Security card (not just the number), along with multiple proofs of residency, like utility bills or bank statements. It might be a good idea to start tracking down the necessary paperwork now!

Do you need to have a Real ID?

The Real ID is necessary for those who want to be able to board a domestic flight with only a driver’s license, as opposed to using a passport. As a frequent business traveler, it is a good idea to jump on this train earlier rather than later. Traveling with a passport adds an extra layer of stress because losing it may mean not being able to come home. So, it’s best to be able to leave the passport behind when possible.

For those who are not interested in getting a Real ID, other identification documents will still be considered adequate. These acceptable documents include a U.S. passport, a passport card, a military ID, a permanent resident card, and a Global Entry traveler card. For a full list of acceptable documents, visit the TSA website.

How will the Real ID Act impact travel?

Well, if you’re prepared ahead of time, hopefully it won’t impact you that much. But, you might find yourself part of the collateral damage that results from others’ lack of awareness. The deadline for the Real ID Act is October 1, 2020 — less than a year away. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t seem to realize this is sneaking up on us, and quickly.

According to a survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, 72 percent of Americans either don’t have a Real ID license or aren’t sure if they do (you can tell if you have a Real ID if there’s a star in the top right corner of your card). On top of that, 57 percent said they didn’t know about the quickly approaching deadline. Even more worrisome, 39 percent of Americans do not have acceptable forms of identification, like a U.S. Passport, that would allow them to board a plane without updating their driver’s license or ID. All in all, this is about 99 million Americans that could be affected by the change.

If this law has been in the works for over a decade, why is citizen awareness still so low? And how might that affect the travel industry?

If the Real ID Act were to be fully implemented today, there would be major confusion across U.S. airports. Using the same data from the survey, U.S. Travel Association economists found that 78,500 air travelers could be turned away from TSA checkpoints, just on the first day.

No surprise, this wouldn’t be great for the travel economy.

Turning away this many travelers could cost the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending. And if this same trend continues for the entire week, more than half a million travelers would be turned away and the economy would face a $282 million loss in travel spending.

The core problem is a nationwide lack of awareness and preparedness for this change. And the risks of such large scale unawareness include inconvenienced travelers, confusion at U.S. airports, and significant economic consequences. Do you feel prepared to make the change in time?

About the Author: Kathleen Burns
Kathleen Burns was a Content Marketing Associate at from 2019-20.