Real ID

Your driver’s license may no longer be the comprehensive ID you always thought it would be, thanks to the Real ID Act, a federal law that set high security standards for driver’s licenses. This act takes effect October 1, 2020.

What does this mean for you?

Your regular state driver’s license may be good for typical situations when you need to show ID, like buying liquor or establishing a bank account — and driving, of course. But for federal issues, such as boarding a plane or entering secure federal facilities, you’ll need a Real ID driver’s license. Getting it is a more complex and time-consuming process than for a regular driver’s license.

For example, as noted on the New York Department of Motor Vehicles website, you have to show up at a DMV office in person — there is no online, phone or mail option for obtaining a Real ID. You’ll need to bring proof of identity, proof of Social Security number (or confirmation you are ineligible for one), proof of date of birth, proof of citizenship (or other legal status) and proof of state residency.

For many people, this can quickly become a hassle. Sometimes proof of residency documents are in a spouse’s name. Or maybe your address is a P.O. box, which is not sufficient as proof of residency. Fortunately, there is a workaround for those who don’t want to bother with a Real ID driver’s license: A current U.S. passport serves the same purpose as a Real ID for federal purposes. So if you still have your old driver’s license as the new era begins, just bring your current U.S. passport to the airport and you’re set, whether it’s for domestic or foreign travel. Passports are good for 10 years and can be renewed by mail if you’re not in a rush.

Although this is a federal program, you should check your local DMV office for details on what you need if you do want to get a Real ID. Considering the famously long DMV lines, you want to be sure you won’t have to make a repeat visit because you lacked a specific document.