One Year Out, Americans Need to Get Serious About REAL ID

Almost 20 years since Congress passed the REAL ID Act, the U.S. is now officially less than 12 months away from the REAL ID enforcement date.

And, while travelers may have gotten used to the delays for enforcement, the latest of which came in 2022, barring a dramatic change in heart from the DHS, this May 7, 2025 deadline is for real.

That means it is time for travelers, particularly those without a passport who want to fly domestically, to get serious about obtaining a REAL ID. Because, according to some recent news, they haven’t: 
–    According to NJ.com, only one in seven New Jersey drivers have opted for REAL ID. 
–    The Illinois Secretary of State said recently less than one-quarter of that state’s drivers have obtained a REAL ID. 
–    The Maine Secretary of State said recently that just 20% of residents of that state have opted for a REAL ID. 
–    The New York Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner said in a recent interview that less than half of New Yorkers have received the new IDs.

REAL ID-compliant IDs and driver’s licenses will usually have a marking on the top portion of the card—most often a star—that will prove its compliance. The mark denotes that the IDs have met the new minimum standards for identification cards.

Travelers will still be able to board flights should they not have a REAL ID as long as they have another form of acceptable identification, which, for travel, is most commonly a passport (though less than half of Americans currently have a passport). Some states, including Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont, also offer enhanced driver’s licenses, considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID. 

For travelers who do not have a REAL ID, and want to get one before the May 2025 deadline, the first stop is to go to their state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what is needed to get a REAL ID. Typically, at minimum, those applying for a REAL ID will need to provide a full legal name, date of birth, social security number, and two proof of address. Other requirements could be needed depending on the state. 

The state-by-state guidelines can be found here. For more on what the process is like, read a piece from TMR’s Paul Ruden on his experience obtaining a REAL ID.