The United States is less than a year out from the Department of Homeland Security's federal requirement for Real ID for domestic flights and entering federal facilities, and to help you get ahead -- and avoid a dreaded hourslong wait at the DMV -- "Good Morning America" has gathered all the essential details you need to ensure your identification is up to date.

What is a Real ID?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security previously delayed the implementation of Real ID several times over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But as of this week, U.S. residents have under a year to obtain their soon-to-be federally required form of identification.

Here's what you need to know:

The federal Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 following the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the Federal Government "set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses," the DHS states on its website.

The new rules set out which forms of identification may be used to board flights within the United States and to enter secure federal facilities such as military bases, federal courthouses and other federal facilities.

Applying for a Real ID requires proof of identity, proof of residency and a trip to your local DMV. See below for more on the full requirements and application process details.

All U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories are issuing Real IDs.

Click here for additional answers from DHS to some frequently asked questions about Real ID.

Real ID application requirements


 

Requirements are largely similar across the states, but as of 2021, according to DHS, states are no longer required to collect a social security document from a Real ID applicant. They still must collect and retain the number as part of the application process to verify that information with the Social Security Administration as currently required by the Real ID regulations.

"Not all states have applied this, so please check with your state driver's licensing agency to find the most up to date information," the DHS website states.

 

In California for example, residents can apply for a Real ID by filling out an application online and upload documents before visiting a DMV office with their uploaded documents to complete the application, which should only take about 15 minutes in person, depending on wait times.

Here's everything California residents would need to provide for the application:

Proof of identity: One original or certified document. For example, a valid passport or birth certificate. Legal name change document is required if name on proof of identity is different from the name on the other documents such as a marriage certificate or adoption papers.

Proofs of California residency: Two documents, paper copies. For example, a utility bill or bank statement.

Social Security number: Some exceptions may apply. Click here for additional details from the DMV REAL ID page.

What is the latest deadline for Real ID?

Earlier this week marked one year before DHS begins enforcing the Real ID requirement on May 7, 2025.

Starting on that date, a Real ID or other federally approved identification will be required to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities.

Federal agencies including Transportation Security Administration may only accept state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards as identification for the purposes of accessing federal facilities -- including TSA airport security checkpoints -- if the license or card was issued by a Real ID compliant state in accordance with the Real ID security standards.

Enhanced Driver's Licenses issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards, according to DHS, and will also be accepted for official REAL ID purposes.

What does Real ID look like?

The Real ID looks almost the same as a current state ID card or driver's license, but has a compliant star marking.

 

Some differences may vary by state, such as in California, where a small golden bear appears on the top right corner with the white star on the animal's left side.

If an ID says "federal limits apply," that person will not be able to board a domestic flight or enter federal facilities, such as military bases, federal courthouses, and other locations after the May 7, 2025, deadline.

Does Real ID replace a passport?

The Real ID does not replace a passport for international travel, however it ensures that travelers can fly domestic within the U.S. and access secure federal locations without additional documentation, according to the DMV.