The deadline to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver's license is Oct. 1, 2020 — and many Americans aren't ready

By Char Adams
October 02, 2019 03:39 PM
Wisconsin Department of Transportation

In the next year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin forcing Americans to show what’s been named a REAL ID to go through security and board a plane.

But 72 percent of Americans aren’t ready for the change, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

“There is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from REAL ID going into full effect,” the association’s president and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at U.S. airports — it could do significant damage to our nation’s economy.”

The READ ID is an enhanced driver’s license that features a star at the top. It will be required at airport gates and most military bases and federal buildings, according to NPR. The deadline to obtain a REAL ID-compliant card is Oct. 1, 2020.

Here’s everything you need to know about the REAL ID.

How to Get One

To get a REAL ID license, you need to present documentation showing your full legal name and date of birth (such as a birth certificate), your social security number, and two proofs of address, according to CNN. However, states may have additional requirements.

New York, Minnesota, Vermont and Michigan all issue both REAL ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Meanwhile, Washington state issues the REAL ID only.

However, authorities are working to raise awareness about the deadline.

“I think realistically we just can’t solve this by trying to send 182 million Americans to the DMV within the next year,” Erik Hansen, vice president for government relations at U.S. Travel, told NPR.


What Will Happen If You Don’t Have a REAL ID by the Deadline

“Unfortunately it means they’re gonna learn the hard way what the Department of Homeland Security has said,” Hansen said. “If you don’t have one of the compliant IDs, either a REAL ID or one of the alternatives, like a passport, you’re actually gonna be turned away at the checkpoint and you’re not going to be allowed to board your flight.”

If you don’t have a REAL ID, you may use another acceptable form of identification, such as a valid passport or U.S. military ID, according to the TSA. However, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker said at a recent hearing that “most people don’t have a passport. And most people are not in the military or veterans, so it’s going to be that driver’s license nine times out of 10.”

A study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found that almost three out of four Americans are unprepared for the REAL ID full implementation, which means millions could be barred from boarding a plane.

Where Did REAL ID Come From?

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, as a security measure after concerns from the 9/11 Commission, according to Homeland Security. The Commission recommended that the nation “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

The recommendation came after the Commission found it was too easy for people to obtain a driver’s license, thus posing a security risk, NPR reported.

Since the act was passed, the federal government has implemented TSA PreCheck, NPR reported. Travelers with TSA PreCheck won’t need the REAL ID — a consideration that means “we’re not just racing to catch up with the past,” Hansen said.

What Are the Concerns?

Travel industry experts say the REAL ID implementation could have a severe impact on the economy. According to the U.S. Travel Association, more than 70,000 could be prevented from flying on the deadline date, and half a million people that week.

“That would mean upward of $40 million per day in economic impact, and that could balloon to hundreds of millions of dollars in the first week alone,” Hansen told the Washington Post.

This could cost the U.S. economy more than $40.3 million in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association.