THE HELP DESK
When Will REAL ID Become ... Real?
by Sophia Guevara
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Dec. 5, 2022, that its REAL ID requirement for airline travel is now going into effect on May 7, 2025—extended from the previous date of May 3, 2023. The regulation was “slated to begin way back in 2008 but has been delayed for a variety of reasons, including because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” CNBC explained in November 2022, noting that a state ID or driver’s license “that is not the new security-enhanced form of identification will no longer be sufficient to board flights. You can use a passport or Green Card to travel domestically if you don’t have a Real ID-compliant drivers license. … In order to get one you’ll need a bit more documentation than is required for a regular license and you might have to pay a higher fee, too.”
The New York Times shared on Oct. 2, 2019, that Americans were “not ready for the REAL ID Act” that was then scheduled to go into effect in October 2020, “according to a survey released … by the nonprofit trade group U.S. Travel Association.” In a statement made by the association in September 2019, “72% of Americans either do not have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or are unsure if they do. … Many Americans also lack the alternatives to REAL ID-compliant, state-issued driver’s licenses—such as a U.S. passport.” Time will tell if the new 2025 date will be enough of a delay for the public to make the switch.
On the Department of Homeland Security’s site dedicated to REAL ID, there is a countdown to enforcement. Scrolling further, you’ll see a map of the U.S., which you can click to access additional information for your state. When I clicked on mine, Michigan, I was taken to a page that lists information about REAL ID along with picture examples of what a regular license or ID looks like versus an enhanced license. Site visitors who would like to convert their standard license to an enhanced one are provided with a list of the required documents to do so. As of this writing, my state allows someone to schedule a visit 6 months in advance and requires the following to convert a license: a current Michigan driver’s license or ID; an unexpired passport, a birth certificate, or other proof of legal presence document; and a certified legal change document if your name is different from what is on your birth certificate.
RENEWING YOUR PASSPORT
For those who are planning to use their passport for domestic travel, and if it is within 6 months of expiry, you may have received an email from the U.S. Department of State reminding you to renew it now. As of this writing, the Department of State is “running a pilot to test the effectiveness of emailing customers with passports expiring within 6 months.” But how long should you expect it to actually take to renew a passport? The Department of State’s Processing Times page indicates that regular processing is 6–9 weeks, while expedited processing is 3–5 weeks. A special note states that the processing times don’t account for the time documents spend in transit via the mail.
You may be able to get a passport card instead of the traditional passport book. According to the Department of State’s Apply for a Passport Card page, both types of passports are valid alternatives to a REAL ID, but cards don’t allow for international air travel like books do. Instead, they cover sea ports of entry into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. A passport card is considerably less money than a passport book—generally about $100 cheaper.
PREPPING FOR AIRPORT SECURITY
Another resource that may be of interest is the REAL ID page found on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) site. It provides answers to questions such as, “Are TSA PreCheck passengers subject to REAL ID requirements?” (Yes), and “What happens if I show up without a valid driver’s license or state ID?” (You won’t be making your flight). The section of the FAQ on accepting mobile driver’s licenses—which TSA began testing under specific circumstances in early 2022—is an interesting look at the future of digital documentation.