How to get a Real ID license before the deadline

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Already making your plans Big vacation for next year? If you’re flying within the United States, you should add one more item to your to-do list: update your license to Real ID. Anyone who has a license that isn’t Real ID-certified will not be allowed to board domestic flights in the US starting May 7, 2025. So unless you have a passport, you’ll need to update your license soon.

This regulatory change has been two decades in the making. The new identification standard was suggested by the 9/11 Commission in response to the September 11 attacks and signed into law by US President George W. Bush in 2005. While the original deadline for the change was set for three years later, it has been delayed several times. But despite previous delays, there has been no indication from the government that this current deadline, set for 2025, will be adjusted again.

Do you want to know what the new licenses will be like and how to get yours before they expire? Here’s everything you need to know about the Real ID changes.

What does a real ID look like?

It is very similar to the previous driver license, so don’t expect any major changes in the look of the ID. Take out your wallet, and see if you have a real ID. Star in the upper right corner This is the only major change to the license.

Photo of Miami International Airport's Homeland Security Real ID message sign.

Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Just like every state has different designs for driver’s licenses, the exact implementation of the Real ID’s star varies slightly depending on your state. Most designs feature a golden circle with a white star in the upper right corner, but California’s has a golden bear surrounding the white star. And while many Real IDs feature gold coloring, some states have opted for a more muted color palette.

How do I get a real ID?

To find out what steps you need to follow, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s webpage about updating to a Real ID, and click on the state you live in. This will take you to another government website with more specific information from your state about the update process.

You’ll probably have to do this Apply for a Real ID in person Go to the local Department of Motor Vehicles office, and be prepared Bring enough documents with you with you. While the details for your state may be slightly different, let’s take a look at Missouri’s requirements as an example to help you understand how many documents you’ll need to obtain a Real ID.

First, if you’re a resident of Missouri, you’ll need proof of your Social Security number, which is usually a Social Security card, but can also be a W-2 form. You’ll then need to show an identity document as well as a valid status document. For this section, a valid passport or U.S. birth certificate will meet both requirements. Next, two separate proofs of residency are needed to demonstrate that you actually live in the state, such as a utility bill, employer paycheck or car insurance. Finally, any name changes require additional documentation, such as a marriage license.

To avoid a frustrating, pointless trip to the DMV, double-check that you have all of your necessary documentation before you go to the office. Depending on the state, you may need to make an appointment in advance for a more streamlined experience. (Well, as streamlined as any trip to the DMV can be.)

What else is a REAL ID required for?

Although many Americans need to update their driver’s licenses primarily for travel purposes, there are some cases where Real ID is also required: According to DHS, you’ll also need it to enter military bases and some federal buildings. Real ID is also required to enter nuclear power plants in the US.

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