What is REAL ID, how to apply

A photo of an example REAL ID-compliant driver's license.

An example of a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. The gold star in the upper right-hand corner indicates the license is REAL ID-compliant. (Courtesy photo)


Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the federal government 'set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.'

The act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards.

It prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purpose licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. These purposes are:

  • Accessing federal facilities
  • Boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft
  • Entering nuclear power plants

Q: When will REAL ID be enforced?
The final enforcement deadline is Oct. 1, 2020. By this date, not only must all states be issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses or IDs, but individuals must also have visited their state's driver's licensing agency and obtained a REAL ID-compliant card, or acceptable alternative such as a U.S. passport, if they wish to fly on commercial aircrafts or access federal facilities.

Q: What happens on Oct. 1, 2020?
Federal agencies, including Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration, may only accept state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards as identification for purposes of accessing federal facilities - including TSA airport security checkpoints - if the license or card was issued by a REAL ID-compliant state in accordance with the REAL ID security standards.

Q: How do I get a REAL ID?
Visit your state's driver's licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:
1) Full legal name
2) Date of birth
3) Social Security number
4) Two proofs of address or principal residence
5) Lawful status
States may impose additional requirements, so check with your state's driver's licensing agency website before visiting them in person for guidance and assistance.

Q: How do I know if my license or identification card is REAL ID-compliant?
REAL ID-compliant cards will have of one of the following markings on the upper portion of the card: a gold or black star, a star over a gold or black circle, or a gold bear with a star. If the card does not have one of these markings, it is not REAL ID-compliant and won't be accepted as proof of identity in order to board commercial aircraft.

Q: Is a passport my only other option?
No. TSA accepts several other forms of identity documents. For more information on acceptable forms of identification for boarding aircraft, please visit TSA's website at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

The card must be REAL ID-compliant unless the resident is using an alternative acceptable document such as a passport.

The act does not require individuals to present an ID where it is not currently required to access a federal facility nor does it prohibit an agency from accepting other forms of identity documents.

If you currently hold a valid Defense Biometric Identification System card, you will not have an issue until your DBIDS card expires. At that point, you will require a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or another form of ID to gain unescorted access to the installation.

To stay up-to-date on territory extensions, reviews deadlines, alternate identification requirements and application documents needed to apply for a REAL ID, visit https://www.dhs.gov/real-id.

Any local questions should be directed to the Malmstrom Air Force Base Visitor's Center at 406-731-6555.

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