REAL ID Act

Updated: October 15, 2021
In this Article

    The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, established “minimum security standards for license issuance,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

    The act prohibits federal agencies from “accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the act’s minimum standards.”

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its phased enforcement plan for REAL ID Dec. 20, 2013.

    As part of the CARES Act of 2020 and because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, DHS has extended REAL ID’s enforcement deadline to May 3, 2023.

    REAL ID affects access to military bases and other federal properties, clearance to enter nuclear power plants and the ability to board federally regulated passenger or commercial aircraft.

    Service members assigned to a new state should learn whether their current or new license or ID card is acceptable at the base where they are about to start working. Alternate forms of ID may be required other than a driver’s license.

    What the REAL ID Act Requires for Compliant ID Cards and Driver’s Licenses

    To be compliant, a state-issued ID intended for use boarding federally-regulated aircraft, military bases, etc. must have, at a minimum, the following information:

    • Full legal name
    • Date of birth
    • Gender
    • Driver’s license or identification card number
    • Digital photograph of the cardholder
    • Address
    • Signature
    • Tamper- and counterfeit-resistant security features
    • Common machine-readable technology

    Additional Requirements for Lawful Residents in the United States

    When applying for a REAL ID-compliant license or ID, a state issuing a compliant license or ID card must require valid documentary evidence that the applicant meets one of the following conditions:

    • Is a citizen or national of the United States
    • Is an alien lawfully admitted for permanent or temporary residence in the U.S.
    • Has conditional permanent resident status in the U.S.
    • Has an approved application for asylum in the U.S. or has entered the country in refugee status
    • Has a valid, unexpired non-immigrant visa or non-immigrant visa status for entry into the U.S.
    • Has a pending application for asylum in the United States
    • Has a pending or approved application for temporary protected status in the U.S.
    • Has approved deferred action status
    • Has a pending application for adjustment of status as an alien admitted for permanent residence in the U.S. or conditional permanent resident status in the U.S.

    All States and Most Territories Are Fully Compliant with REAL ID

    All 50 states, the District of Columbia and four of five territories are fully compliant with REAL ID, DHS announced in April 2021. 

    However, many states extended their deadlines for renewing expiring licenses because of appointment-only scheduling caused by the pandemic. Only 43% of all state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards were compliant as of April 2021, according to DHS. 

    A REAL ID Act Compliant ID Card or Driver’s License Requirement to Get DBIDS ID Card

    Many military installations have transitioned to the use of the defense biometric identification system (DBIDS) for access. 

    Applying for the DBIDS ID card normally includes a requirement to use a REAL ID Act-compliant ID or a replacement for those not allowed by passports, trusted traveler cards or other ID meeting federal standards for DBIDS.

    Gaining Access to Military Bases Without Compliant ID Card or Driver’s License

    Those with permanent change of station orders or doing temporary duty at a military base not accepting your state ID or driver’s license require alternate forms of ID.

    A birth certificate is likely unacceptable since it does not include a photo or other required information. Passports, visas or other required replacement documentation may be necessary. 

    The standards may vary on the installation you need to access. It is best to call ahead to the military base’s Pass & ID Office, security forces desk or visitor center to learn what alternative forms of ID may be acceptable.

    REAL ID Act Full Implementation Requirements

    May 3, 2023, is the deadline for every state and territory resident to carry a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, ID or other acceptable forms of identification.

    DHS and some states continue to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, including changes to streamline processing by allowing digital submission of specific documents.

    This is required for all access to military bases and federal facilities, nuclear power plants and commercial aircraft.

    For more information on REAL ID, visit www.dhs.gov/real-id.

    Written by Veteran.com Team

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