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4 Things You Need to Know About Real ID
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February 3, 2020
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Travel Trivia Editorial
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It seems everyone's talking about the October 1, 2020, deadline for Real ID compliance. However, did you know that requirements concerning this new form of identification date back to 2005? If you're undecided about applying for a Real ID, knowing these four things may help.

Venue Access Limitations Won't Apply in All Situations

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The 2005 Real ID Act empowered the government to create standards for acceptable federal identification. And, in line with the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, Congress developed guidelines for the documents Americans must provide to qualify for a Real ID. Of course, your current identification or driver's license won't automatically become invalid on October 1.

Rather, several federal agencies will no longer accept these forms of identification. According to the Department of Homeland Security, you won't be able to enter nuclear power plants, government facilities, or military bases without a Real ID. You'll also need a Real ID to board a commercial aircraft.

However, these limitations won't apply to several activities for which you currently use your state-issued ID card or driver's license. Examples include renting a car, visiting hospitals, and voting. Moreover, you can still cash checks at the bank or take a train across state lines with your current ID.

Alternatives to the Real ID Are Allowed

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In some cases, you may not need to get a Real ID until it's time to renew your current driver's license or state ID. A passport is sufficient to meet the federal government's identification requirements.

That said, the states of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont will issue both Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) and Real IDs. For now, Washington will be the only state issuing EDLs. The major difference between an EDL and Real ID is the presence of a star on a Real ID's upper right-hand corner. All state-issued EDLs will feature a flag instead of a star. Both will qualify as valid forms of identification at airport security checkpoints.

If you'd like to know what a Real ID looks like for your state, check out the Department of Homeland Security's Real ID site. For Ohio residents, a Real ID–compliant license will have a black star in the upper right-hand corner. Meanwhile, a California Real ID card will feature a yellow bear with a cut-out star on its back.

If you still don't have a Real ID by October 1, don't worry. The Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept other forms of identification, such as a permanent resident card, Department of Defense ID, military ID, or border crossing card.

Meanwhile, anyone with TPS (Temporary Protected Status) or "approved deferred action status" may apply for a temporary Real ID. Applicants must still provide a valid employment authorization document as well as a social security number when applying.

That said, some forms of ID won't serve as acceptable alternatives at the airport. The TSA explains that TSA Pre✓® customers also have to present a Real ID. The same goes for individuals enrolled in the Clear program. Failure to submit valid identification means that you won't be allowed to board an aircraft.

You Can Apply for a Real ID at Your Local DMV

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The Department of Motor Vehicles is in charge of issuing a Real ID. Although some states allow you to start the application process online, you must still apply in-person at the DMV. At that time, you must show original documentation and be photographed.

If you're concerned about meeting the deadline for airline travel, head to the DMV as soon as possible. Bring original or certified copies of the documents that prove your identity. Examples include a United States birth certificate or passport. You may verify your Social Security number by presenting your Social Security card, a W-2, or a pay stub that shows the full number.

If your name changed due to a marriage or divorce, it's essential to bring supporting documents showing the change of names along the way. You may need to bring in your original birth certificate as well as a certified copy of your marriage license, which shows your name change.

And, to verify your residency, you can present your current apartment lease or a mortgage bill. Utility bills or school documents can also be used for this purpose. Just make sure that your name and address on these documents match. If you use a PO box for your mail, be sure to bring in a rental agreement or property deed.

Although requirements for identity verification are laid out in the 2005 law, each state can ask for additional documentation. Fortunately, some will accept alternatives. The AARP notes that Maryland residents older than 65 don't have to provide a birth certificate if they can show military discharge paperwork. In California, the DMV will accept a Certificate of Naturalization in place of a birth certificate.

By the way, did you know that an inter-state move requires you to start the application process over again? Unfortunately, it's true. The DMV in California won't accept a Real ID from Rhode Island. Instead, the California DMV employee will ask you to provide the original documentation you presented back in Rhode Island. On the bright side, you won't have to retake the road test when applying for a driver's license in your new state. Your old state's license will serve well enough.

Head Coverings Are Allowed in Real ID Photos

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There have been some misconceptions about the photo requirement for a Real ID. Some residents who wear head coverings for religious reasons may have waited to apply for the IDs. They may have done so out of concern that they would have to remove their head covering when posing for a photo.

If you wear a head covering, rest assured that you can continue to wear it even when the DMV worker takes your photograph. The law only requires your face to be visible from the hairline to the chin. That said, your head covering shouldn't cast a shadow on your cheeks.