You may already have a REAL ID: How to find out

(NEXSTAR) — Next year you will need a REAL ID to travel to the United States, visit certain federal facilities and enter a nuclear power plant. While this time frame may seem daunting, you may not have to go through the process of getting a REAL ID at all.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, a special commission recommended that the federal government adopt certain minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identity cards. In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to do just that.

Under the REAL ID Act, federal agencies such as the TSA are prohibited from accepting state-issued identification that does not meet minimum federal standards, according to the Department of Homeland Security. This means that if you do not have a REAL ID by the current federal deadline of May 3, 2023, you will not be able to fly domestically, visit certain federal facilities, or enter a nuclear power plant.

States now require you to prove, at a minimum, five pieces of identification: legal name, date of birth, social security number, legal residency, and two forms of your address. But before you start compiling those documents for that dreaded visit to your nearest DMV, check your wallet — you might already have a REAL ID-compliant ID.

Many states have been issuing REAL IDs for years, which means if you got your license or renewed it recently, it’s probably REAL ID compliant.

The way to find out is to check the top right corner. There should be some star. It will be either black or gold, a star or star cut out, or a star cut out of a bear if you live in California. This sample Kansas driver’s license, for example, features a gold circle with a white star cutout.

This undated photo provided by the Kansas Department of Revenue shows the redesign of the Kansas driver’s license intended to comply with federal identification requirements for airport security purposes. (Kansas Department of Revenue via AP)

If your license or ID does not have a star it is still valid and you can still use it to fly until the 2023 deadline. Without TRUE ID you will need another form such as a valid passport or US military ID. The TSA lists other forms of identification that can also be used to board an aircraft.

Those who decline to obtain a REAL ID will receive licenses like the one pictured below, which features a “Federal Limits Apply” rating in place of the star.

You may already have a REAL ID: How to find out
FILE – In this June 22, 2018, file photo, a sample copy of a Washington driver’s license is shown at the Washington State Department’s licensing office in Lacey, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

State-level officials are encouraging those who want to have a REAL ID before the deadline to start the process sooner to avoid a rush of applicants who would have to wait until spring.

The time frame in which you must apply for a REAL ID to meet the deadline depends on the state you live in.

In some states, such as Missouri, Oregon, and Florida, ID cards typically arrive in your mailbox within seven to 10 days of your request. In others, including New York, California and Indiana, it can take up to two weeks. For states like Utah and Texas, it can take up to six weeks. In Hawaii, it can take two months.

Ultimately, you’ll want to check with your local DMV to determine approximately how long it will take for your REAL ID to become available. If you have additional questions about REAL IDs, you can visit the TSA website, the DHS website, or contact your local DMV.


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