If You Need a Real ID, Visit the DMV Soon

2020 is the year Real ID goes into effect for air travel. So having a star on your license will become more important if you don’t have a passport.

(Image credit: Thaddeus Robertson)

UPDATE: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has delayed the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline to get a REAL ID. The measure is to help limit potential exposure to COVID-19. The new deadline is Oct. 1, 2021, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

If you’ve been to the airport recently, you may have noticed signs asking, "Does your ID have a star?" If it doesn’t, you may want to schedule a visit to your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Beginning in October 2020, many travelers will need what’s known as a Real ID–compliant license to fly domestically. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress passed legislation designed to create universal standards for driver’s licenses and other sources of identification. But with the deadline less than a year away, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that 99 million Americans lack a Real ID–compliant driver’s license or other acceptable identification.

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State legislatures have passed laws to bring their DMVs up to speed on the new standards, but the process hasn’t always gone smoothly. Millions of Californians who thought their licenses were compliant have been told to provide more information to prove residency. If you don’t already have a Real ID, the Transportation Safety Administration recommends going to the DMV early in the year to avoid long lines. If you don’t get a Real ID by the deadline, a valid passport is sufficient to get you through security checkpoints. FedEx and RushMyPassport, a company specializing in expedited passports, recently announced a partnership to streamline the application process. You’ll have to pay the government fee of $145, plus additional costs that vary based on how quickly you need your passport.

Rivan V. Stinson
Ex-staff writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.