Do I Need Real ID?

If you’re a frequent traveler and happen to keep up-to-date on travel news, you may have noticed how quickly mentions of REAL ID have spiked recently. If you’ve asked yourself, “What is REAL ID?” or “Do I need REAL ID?”, you’re not alone.

The REAL ID Act, officially passed by Congress more than a decade ago, is fast  approaching its 2020 deadline requiring compliance from all 50 states. The transition from introductory stage to fully enforceable makes REAL ID a very relevant national conversation. It is important that the public is aware of the changes to come and what forms of identification are acceptable to board a flight – even a domestic one – by the year 2020.

Starting on October 1, 2020, you will no longer be able to board a plane with a regular driver’s license or state ID card.

To better understand what REAL ID is and if you’ll need one, continue reading below for some of the most common REAL ID FAQs:

What is REAL ID?

REAL ID is a new form of identification developed as part of the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005. The REAL ID Act was created to satisfy the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government set official standards for issuing identification to the general public.

Do I Need REAL ID?

The easiest way to determine if you will need a REAL ID is by assessing your travel schedule. If you have an up-to-date passport, then you will not need a REAL ID in order to fly. If you do not have a valid passport, military ID, or other federally approved document,  you will need a REAL ID for domestic air travel.

When Should I Get a REAL ID?

This will depend on what state you live in, as certain states are already REAL ID compliant while others have requested extensions to comply with the REAL ID Act requirements.

It’s highly recommended that you apply for a REAL ID as soon as possible in the event that you plan to travel and do not have a valid passport. If you don’t mind carrying your passport with you to the airport, then you won’t have to worry about being first in line to obtain a new REAL ID.

Our next blog in the REAL ID series will feature up-to-date information on the status of each state in the US. Once the blog is live, we will include the link here. In the meantime, you can also follow the news on the Official Travel Documents website which shares information from across the country with REAL ID news, updates, and more.

What Happens If I Don’t Get A REAL ID?

If you make the decision not to obtain a REAL ID, starting on October 1, 2020 you will no longer be able to board a plane or enter a secure federal facility with a regular driver’s license. You will need a valid passport or other approved government identification for these purposes.

How Will The REAL ID Act Be Enforced?

On December 20th, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced an enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act, intended to roll out in phases. This would ensure a measured and fair enforcement of the Act in the years ahead.

The four phases of the REAL ID Act are cumulative and build on one another. Each phase is 3 months long, and within each phase agencies will provide notice to any individuals that use a regular driver’s license in a noncompliant state. These individuals will still be allowed access during this time period. After the phase is complete, everyone will be required to follow the regulations outlined in the REAL ID Act.

The four phases are as follows:

  • Phase 1: Restricted areas – for DHS’s Nebraska Avenue Complex headquarters
  • Phase 2: Restricted areas – for all Federal facilities and nuclear power plants
  • Phase 3: Semi-restricted areas – for most Federal Facilities (access will continue to be allowed for purposes of applying for or receiving Federal benefits)
  • Phase 4: Boarding federally regulated commercial aircrafts

We hope the above info was helpful in answering some of your questions about REAL ID. Stay tuned for more information as we continue our REAL ID blog series in the coming weeks. You can stay updated on new blogs by following along on our social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter). If you need any assistance with vital records, like a birth certificate to take to the DMV with you, VitalChek is your go-to resource for government-issued documents.


  1. What if need to speak with someone on the telephone with a quick question? I travel frequently so I do have my passport with me at all times.

    1. How do I obtain a real ID card.

      1. Hello Lynne. Thanks for reaching out with your question. We suggest you contact your local DMV for information about the issuance of Read ID cards.

  2. I need to speak to someone on the phone too, or is this a bogus scam; I have tried numerous times and ways to get a birth certificate for my son and keep getting the message , ” signature must match.” What lousy signature?

    1. Hello Victor. We are sorry to hear about your frustrating ordering experience. Please contact us with your order number so we can assist you. The quickest way to reach us is by private message at You can also call us at 800-255-2414 or email us at

  3. I just spent ten minutes entering all the required information to obtain a birth certificate and after I entered my drivers license into the identification verification page, there was no “continue” button. It simply just sat there. No “finish” or “enter” button. What a waste of time. I also noticed, on the identification verification page, thet my current address was locked and un-editable. My mailing and billing address is different than physical address so it probably wouldn’t work even it if it had a continue button.

    1. Hello Darin. We are sorry to hear that you are having ordering difficulties. If you ordered through VitalChek and still need assistance, please contact us with your order number. The quickest way to reach us is by private message at, You can also call us at 800-255-2414 or email us at

  4. I was told that I should apply for a Real ID when my current driver’s license expires. However, my
    license does not expire until 7/7/23. Should I contact the DMV?

    1. Hello John. While you certainly can wait until it is time to renew your current ID, if you intend to do any air travel or visit any federal facilities after the 2020 REAL ID deadline, the process will be much simpler with a REAL ID. The DMV can certainly provide you with more information.

  5. I do not fly out of the state. Do I have to get a Real ID ? I do not need one. Please e-mail me and give me the updates. Thank you.

    1. Hello Susan. Thanks fir reaching out with your question. You will need either a REAL ID or a valid passport to board flights, domestic or international, after October 2020. If you do not anticipate flying in the near future, you may be able to wait to get a REAL ID until the next time you have to renew your driver’s license.

  6. Can you get a real of after Oct 2020?

    1. Hello William. You will definitely be able to get a real ID after October 2020. After October 2020 if you do not have a REAL ID, you will need a passport to fly domestically and your access to federal buildings will be restricted.

  7. Question: driving in to Ontario Canada this summer. Neither myself or my husband have a passport..
    My husband is a North American Mohawk Indian and is a Canada citizen He was required to get a Green card,
    which he did & I am a US citizen. He had family in Canada that we plan to visit via car this summer. Will we be able to get
    across border with the Real ID or will we still need a passport?

    1. Hello Sandy. Thanks for reaching out with your question. You may want to contact the Canada Border Services Agency and The US Department of State to verify what documentation you will need to travel by car between the U.S. and Canada.

  8. If you want to travel, just get a passport, you need it anyway for foreign travel.
    The real ID law is just a wasteful use of tax dollars, since it duplicates a passport, but isn’t as good as a passport anyway.

  9. How much will it cost me to get ANOTHER official birth certificate for the DMV? Will the Real IF cost me more than the $20 they quoted me for a state ID?

    1. Hello Laura. The cost of obtaining a certified copy of your birth certificate may vary depending on where you were born and how you place the order. There are several different ways you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate:
      Order In Person: If going to the Vital Record Agency in person is convenient for you, this is usually the quickest and least expensive way to obtain the record – which will most likely be processed while you wait.
      Order By Mail: The Agency’s website will generally have the application form you will need to download, complete and mail in along with a check or money order and, if necessary proof of your identity. This tends to be the slowest ordering method, taking anywhere between 2-6 weeks depending on the agency.
      Order By Phone: If the agency accepts phone orders, calling in your order can be a convenient way of obtaining your certificate. To make the process as smooth as possible, you should have all the pertinent information readily available before placing the call.
      Order Online: Ordering vital records online, from the Agency’s website or their authorized online ordering service (like VitalChek) is fast and convenient, available 24/7, 365 days a year, and generally ensures you receive your vital records quickly – in some cases within just a few days. Online orders are typically handled in an expedited manner, ensuring your order is processed before any non-expedited requests (like those by mail). We hope this has been helpful, and thank you for choosing VitalChek for your official certificate needs.

  10. Since a passport is good for 10 years and a real ID is only good for 6 years, why is it so important to have both? Also, if a person plans to travel outside the US, a passport is needed, so why get an enhanced Id

    1. Hello Isobel. If you already have a valid passport and you are prepared to bring it when you travel domestically, you do not need to get your real ID until the next time you have to renew your driver’s license.

  11. I do have a current Passport Card, will that suffice for travel since my state, according to my local news will not be ready to roll out Read ID program until July of 2020? If my trip is scheduled for after October 1st and I have not been able to get into the DMV to update my drivers licence?

    1. Hello. Accroding to the TSA’s website, a valid passport or passport card should be acceptable documentation for travel. Please click here to visit their site for more information.

  12. My idea on this is to go ahead and apply fo both a Passport Book and a Passport Card instead. You can keep the Passport Book at home unless you are flying internationally and just use your Passport Card for domestic flights plus Passport Cards allow you to travel to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean by land or sea (Passport Card is not valid for international flights). That way, you can renew your driver’s license by mail or online without spending all day at the driver’s license office waiting in long lines.

    1. Hey Bryan…sounds like a good idea. Just verify whether or not it is necessary to go in person the first time you get your real ID.

  13. I don’t fly ever I’d rather drive (more control)
    And I dont go into federal buildings ever do
    I still need one of the Real IDs or can I keep
    My regular drivers license?

    1. Hello Jonathon. If you do not fly or have need to enter a federal building, you are not required to obtain a REAL ID until the next time you have to renew your driver’s license.

Leave A Comment