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Anna Marie

What You Need To Know About Real ID For Flying

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Hi, I’m Anna Marie. I’m a wife, mother, Irish dancer, and pug mom living in North Carolina. I also love to travel. Come along for the ride! If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Pull over and let me out.’

Real ID for flying is coming to an airport near you in 2020. The Real ID Act of 2005 introduces new requirements for state driver licenses and ID cards that the federal government will accept. These requirements go into effect October 1, 2020 and will impact the flying public.

Being the kind of person who hates long lines and crowds, I made a trip to the DMV to get my new Real ID driver license before the rush. In doing so, I’ve learned a few tips for getting Real ID to share with you.


“The deadline for compliance with REAL ID requirements, which was set to begin on Oct. 1, 2020 has been delayed. The new start date is October 1, 2021.

Post updated June 11, 2020. To read more click here.

October 1, 2021

The important date to remember is October 1, 2021. That’s when every air traveler in the U.S. will need a Real ID-compliant license or other acceptable form of identification in order to board a plane.

October calendar page
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Is my ID already Real ID?

Your ID may already be Real ID-compliant. Some states have been issuing the enhanced licenses for a while, now. The easiest way to see if your license is Real ID is to look for the star.

If your license has a star at the top, this indicates it’s certified as Real ID. (California has a star on a golden bear) If you’re still not sure, check with your state’s DMV so you won’t have any unpleasant surprises at the airport.

What other forms of ID are acceptable?

If you don’t drive or you just don’t get to the DMV ahead of the October 1, 2020 deadline, there are other acceptable forms of identification you can use at the airport.

The best and easiest is your valid passport. Additionally, the TSA has a list of other acceptable forms of identification you may use instead of a Real ID driver license. You can check out that list here.

A picture of a United States passport
Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

Travel Insurance by InsureMyTrip

Getting My Real ID for Flying

Yes, I have a valid passport. My driver’s license isn’t up for renewal for several years and I’m way ahead of the October 1, 2021 deadline. That being said, I’d rather get it now and not face the crowds at the DMV. That’s why I made the journey to the DMV on a rainy Wednesday morning in 2019.

Here’s what I experienced while applying for my upgraded Real ID in North Carolina. (Each state may be different so research your state’s requirements before you go.)

When I checked in at the DMV, I had to show the required documentation in order to proceed. I had to provide; 

  • one document with my full name proving my identity and date of birth
  • one document with my full name and social security number
  • two documents with my current physical address proving my North Carolina residency. This was all I needed to show as a U.S. citizen. However, there are a few additional requirements for non-citizens. 

North Carolina provides a detailed list of acceptable documents you can use. Once I’d met the required proof of residency and identity the process went quickly and easily. I was given a number and waited maybe five minutes before being called to the counter where the process was completed. It cost me $13 to upgrade to Real ID and the new license retains the same expiration date as the previous one.

To apply for the Real ID in North Carolina, you must visit the DMV office in person. It cannot be obtained online. Each state’s requirements may be different so it’s important to do your research prior. 

If you're taking a utility bill as proof of residency, be sure your name is on the bill! A bill with just your spouse's name on it won't work.

Want to Learn More About Real ID?

The Real ID goes into effect for air travelers on October 1, 2021. If you fly frequently or you know you’ll be taking a flight in the coming months, why not go ahead and upgrade your license before the DMV gets busy? You may even be able to call ahead and make an appointment.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Real ID for flying, here are a few helpful links.

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