Real ID: Document to travel within the US

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Have you heard about the new reality of travel? Starting on May 7, 2025, the Real ID Act will go into effect, requiring everyone in the U.S. to have a REAL-ID-compliant form of identification to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings. It is estimated that around 12 million undocumented immigrants would be affected by this implementation, but now there is more time to prepare.

Next, we will answer the following questions:

  1. What is a REAL ID, and why do I need one?
  2. When will REAL ID be enforced? 
  3. What other documents are valid for travel?
  4. How do I get a REAL ID?
  5. Am I eligible for a REAL ID if I am undocumented?
  6. What does the REAL ID Act not change?

What is a REAL ID, and why do I need one?

A Real ID is a type of government-issued identification that meets the standards of the Real ID Act of 2005. A Real ID has several marks on it that indicate its authenticity. These marks are typically a star (either gold or black) in the upper portion of the card. They are designed to make the Real ID difficult to forge and easy to verify as a legitimate government-issued identification card. The importance of the Real ID is that it allows the ID owner to access certain places and services, such as entering government buildings and flying within the United States. Access to these places and services may be denied without a Real ID.

When will REAL ID be enforced?

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), beginning May 7, 2025, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.

What other documents are valid for travel?

Below is the list of TSA-acceptable forms of identification:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Permanent resident card (green card)
  • Unexpired foreign government-issued passport
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Border crossing card
  • An acceptable photo ID issued by a federally recognized Tribal Nation/Indian Tribe
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

How do I get a REAL ID?

Visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing your: 

  1. Full legal name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Social security number
  4. Two proofs of your primary address; and 
  5. Proof of lawful status

Requirements may vary by state. To verify the necessary documentation needed for your state, click here.

Can I apply for a REAL ID if I am undocumented?

Undocumented immigrants may not be eligible to apply for a Real ID as they do not have valid forms of identification or proof of legal presence in the country. However, some states may offer alternative forms of identification, such as a driving privilege card, that may be available to undocumented immigrants. Click here to learn more about the 18 states, plus the District of Columbia (Washington D.C), that offer driver’s licenses (or equivalent) to undocumented immigrants.

What does the REAL ID Act not change?

REAL ID requirements do not apply to:

  • Voting or registering to vote
  • Applying for or receiving federal benefits
  • Being licensed by a state to drive or rent a car
  • Entering federal facilities that do not require identification (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings, National Parks, and Social Security offices)
  • Accessing health- or life-preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics)
  • Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigation
  • Ability to purchase alcohol, cash checks, or gamble

You can also continue to use your standard driver’s license or ID card for other U.S. travel, like driving in and across state lines or riding a train.

In summary, starting May 7, 2025, the REAL ID Act takes full effect. From this date on, everyone will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or ID or another acceptable form of identification for accessing federal facilities, including boarding commercial aircraft for domestic flights.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.