What Is a Real ID? How Is It Different From a Driver's License?

It’s time to get real.

If you’re planning to fly domestically on or after May 7, 2025, you may need a new type of personal identification called Real ID. Here's what you need to know.

1. What exactly is Real ID?

Real ID is a new requirement for all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The new standard—stemming from the Real ID Act of 2005—is in place to help improve security by making your identification harder to tamper with.

2. What about my current driver’s license?

Beginning May 7, 2025, your state-issued driver’s license or identification card will no longer meet security standards for domestic flights. You’ll need to upgrade to a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or Real ID card. If you want to keep your current driver’s license (so long as it hasn’t expired), you’ll still need to have a separate Real ID card to fly domestically.

3. Can I use my passport?

Your passport (or passport card) meets security standards for both international and domestic flights. So if your passport is up to date and it’s your preferred identification for air travel, you’re all set.

If your passport has expired (or you don’t have one), we suggest renewing or obtaining one in addition to your Real ID-compliant identification. You can find applications and renewal forms online. Note that a Real ID does not replace a passport used for international travel.

You can also use your permanent resident card or U.S. military ID for air travel. Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) issued by some states—including Michigan and Minnesota—are considered acceptable alternatives to Real ID-compliant cards.

Have even more questions about Real ID? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the answers.

Read More

5. Where can I get my Real ID?

Once they reopen, go to your state DMV. Be aware, however, that some states will be issuing only a Real ID-compliant identification card, not a driver’s license. In those states, you’ll need your driver’s license plus the Real ID-compliant identification card when traveling domestically.

To apply for the Real ID, you must appear in person at a DMV office and bring several DMV-accepted documents that verify your identity, U.S. legal residence or citizenship status, and current address. Find more specific information for your state:

6. Will every member of my family need a Real ID?

Only adults, ages 18 and up, will require a Real ID to board a domestic flight. Some airlines do require specific identification for minors, such as a certified birth certificate, in situations where there is no fare or it is discounted.

The rules for international flights haven’t changed: Passports are always required for both minors and adults.

7. What else besides air travel will require a Real ID?

Real ID will be required beginning May 7, 2025, for everyone visiting a military base, nuclear facility or federal building that requires identification.

You will not need a Real ID to:

  • Vote or register to vote
  • Apply for or receive federal benefits
  • Operate a motor vehicle
  • Access health- or life-preserving services (including hospitals and clinics)
  • Participate in law enforcement proceedings

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