when to upgrade to a REAL ID

When to Upgrade to a Real ID?

You’ve probably heard rumblings and read plenty of news updates on the REAL ID Act. If you’re unclear on exactly what the REAL ID Act is, you can read more about it on the VitalChek blog here. In short, the REAL ID Act of 2005 is a federally mandated regulatory action passed by congress to standardize and maintain a minimum level security standard for ID’s issued on the state level. This simply means that in order to gain access to federal facilities and to board domestic flights, U.S. citizens will need to carry a Real ID compliant state-issued ID. Because the transition to Real ID compliance by all states has been a bit of a bumpy road, it’s important to know whether or not your state is compliant, and what you need to do to ensure you have the proper identification to travel. 

When Should I Get a Real ID?

To be clear, you don’t have to obtain a Real ID. It’s an additional one-time fee in order to upgrade your normal state issued license to a Real ID. If you have a passport, it will allow you to board domestic flights, as will any of the appropriate forms of ID as listed on the TSA website. If you don’t have a passport and utilize domestic airline travel, however, you’ll want to be sure you have one of the listed forms of ID or you are going to want to upgrade to a Real ID. 

If the question you’re asking is “When should I get a Real ID?”, well the answer is simple. By October of 2021, your regular license will no longer work to grant you access to federal facilities. Airports are classified as federal facilities, so in order to board your domestic flight, you’ll need to have a more secure form of identification. As the government has rolled out the new regulations, they’ve allowed a grace period through the October 2021 deadline that allows residents of compliant states to use their normal IDs until they can obtain a Real ID. While there is no need to run out and upgrade your license immediately, you will need to do so before October 2021 or be prepared to provide another acceptable form of ID. 

Upgrading to your Real ID (if you so choose) isn’t a painful process. You’ll just need to make sure you have the appropriate vital records with you to ensure your application can be processed  while you’re at the DMV. If you need to obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate to upgrade your ID you can order one securely through VitalChek.com.

If you don’t plan on flying with a passport, upgrading to a Real ID may be the best option for you. It’s a minimal one-time fee, so you won’t have to worry about going through this process again. Just know that if you decide not to upgrade by October of 2021, you’ll need to obtain a secure form of ID for domestic airline travel. If you’ve already got a passport or other secure ID, you don’t need to worry about upgrading at all. Regardless, we hope your travel plans go smoothly!


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