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The Ultimate Guide to REAL ID for Business Travelers

A South Carolina drivers license is REAL ID ready.

GOING ON A BUSINESS TRIP? NOT UNTIL YOU’RE REAL ID READY.

Vaccinations? Check. Laptop? Check. REAL ID? What? You might be ready to travel, but is your identification ready? Business travelers need to be REAL ID ready by May 3, 2023. Ultimately, here’s what you need to know.

A QUICK BACKGROUND 

The REAL ID Act passed in 2005 in response the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations on preventing terrorism. The Act designed for personal identification forms to be more consistent and secure.

But enforcement of the Act has been a long time coming. According to the New York Times, “The rollout has been delayed many times over the years after some states complained that the original deadline of 2008 was unreasonable.”

Additionally, the states are largely footing the cost, about $3.9 billion. Federal aid to implement the Act totaled only $225 million. State databases also struggled to function correctly.

Finally, as states got their ducks in a row for the Act’s 2020 enforcement deadline, the COVID-19 pandemic blew them out of the water. Many states closed their Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices, which were largely responsible for issuing the REAL IDs.

THE CURRENT STATUS OF REAL IDs

The DHS granted a few extensions to the original deadline during the pandemic. However, time is almost up. Enforcement begins May 3, 2023.

The DHS homepage for REAL IDs

 

According to the Federal Register, “Beginning on that date, federal agencies may not accept a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for official purposes from any individual unless such license or card is a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that DHS has determined is in full compliance.”

Without a REAL ID, business travelers cannot travel within the United States by air.

Business travelers can learn if their identification is in line by using the DHS’s interactive tool. The page also allows you to search your state to find the guidelines for your location.

If your state is compliant, and your driver’s license or identification card is due to expire before May 3, 2023, the new ID issued to you will have a radio frequency identification chip. This will be indicated by a star symbol. Or, your ID will be “enhanced,” depending on your location.

A compliant license will be marked with one of the star symbols. An enhanced license will be marked “enhanced.” Here are examples from two locations:

examples of REAL IDs with the star graphic printed on the ID

 

Business travelers should check the status of their identification and act quickly. Some states are reporting months long wait times at the DMV.

Additional information can be obtained from your state or local DMV office and the DHS.

FAQS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS

When is the REAL ID deadline?

The new deadline is May 3, 2023. Beginning on that date, business travelers without a compliant form of identification will not be allowed through TSA security checkpoints.

Who needs a REAL ID?

All U.S. travelers flying domestically need a REAL ID or other acceptable form of ID. Furthermore, this includes travelers enrolled in programs like TSA PreCheck and CLEAR.

How do I know if I have a REAL ID?

Unfortunately, state compliance doesn’t guarantee that your identification is compliant. If your ID is not marked with a star, check with your state driver license division.

Some states—New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont—issue both enhanced and REAL ID-compliant licenses. Either of these are acceptable.

Washington State issues only enhanced licenses, which are also compliant.

How do I get a REAL ID?

To get a REAL ID, visit your local DMV in person and present identity verification documents.

You can use the DHS’s interactive tool to search your state or territory and access your state’s guidelines.

What kinds of documents are needed for a REAL ID?

At a minimum, you need documentation of:

  • – your full legal name
  • – date of birth
  • – Social Security number
  • – two proofs of principal residence address
  • – lawful status

Some states may have additional requirements, so check with your DMV before visiting in person.

Will TSA accept any other forms of identification?

If you don’t have a REAL ID, other forms of identification are usable. For example, a federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID is an acceptable form of identification. A valid passport could also be used.

What forms of identification are not acceptable?

The TSA currently doesn’t accept mobile driver’s licenses. Additionally, paper temporary/interim driver’s licenses are not an acceptable form of ID.