US pushes REAL ID travel deadline to May 2023: What to know

Travelers will need compliant license or passport to board planes

Michigan Enhanced Driver's License (Secretary of State's Office)
Michigan Enhanced Driver's License (Secretary of State's Office)

If you’re looking to travel anywhere in the next few years, you’re going to need a REAL ID-compliant license or passport -- but Americans have extra time to meet the deadline.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, passport or passport card, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.

How do I get a REAL ID?

Visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID.  At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:  1) Full Legal Name; 2) Date of Birth; 3) Social Security Number; 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and 5) Lawful Status. (Here’s Michigan’s page on this)

Do children and teens need REAL ID?

Transportation Security Administration does not require children under age 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.

Is my enhanced driver’s license or enhanced ID a REAL-ID?

If you have an enhanced driver’s license or enhanced state ID card, you already have a REAL ID-compliant card.

How does a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or state ID differ from one that is not REAL ID compliant?

Your REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card (standard and Enhanced) will have a star in a gold circle printed on it. Enhanced licenses and state ID cards that do not have a star on them are REAL ID compliant and will be printed with a star when renewed or replaced. Standard licenses and state IDs that do not meet the federal REAL ID requirements will have “Not for Federal Identification” printed on them.

Read more FAQ on REAL ID here.

You don’t need a REAL ID if you:

  • Do not fly and you do not plan to enter certain federal facilities, such as military bases and nuclear power plants.
  • Have an acceptable alternative to a state-issued REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card, such as a valid U.S. passport.

Standard and Enhanced driver’s licenses and state ID cards are printed with the REAL ID star to show they are REAL ID compliant.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.