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

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