Real ID Guide: Necessary Documents, Cost and What Else You Need to Know

Learn where you can get a Real ID, what other forms of identification you can use to fly inside the U.S. and the status of your state

Update: President Trump announced on Monday, March 23 that the Real ID deadline of Oct. 1 will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Come Oct. 1, Americans will need a Real ID driver’s license or state ID to fly anywhere inside the United States. But as of mid-February, about 34% of all driver’s license holders – about 95 million Americans  –  had licenses or state ID cards that were Real ID compliant. With more than 276 million Americans who have yet to obtain a Real ID, multiple states and leaders at several of the nation’s major airports have called on the White House to postpone the Oct. 1 deadline – warning of a potential travel crisis if the date isn't pushed back.

What to Know

  • A Real ID card, or other qualifying form of ID such as a passport, will be required to fly anywhere inside the U.S. starting on Oct. 1
  • As of late February, two-thirds of Americans with state-issued IDs had yet to get a Real ID
  • Major airports have warned of commotion at U.S. airports if the Oct. 1 deadline isn't pushed back

Some states like Oregon haven’t even started issuing IDs, and others like New Jersey remain overwhelmed by demand. But in Illinois, the Secretary of State’s Office remains “cautiously optimistic” it will be able to meet the Oct. 1 deadline, and has taken extra measures including extending hours and encouraging anyone who doesn't need the ID to reconsider applying for it.

Have you gotten your Real ID yet? From its creation to what documents are needed to apply and the progress made in Illinois and neighboring states, NBC 5 has learned the ins and out of Real ID to help you get prepared for Oct. 1.

What is a Real ID?

The Real ID Act is not a new law, having been passed by Congress in 2005, but after years of court battles and extensions, the law will soon change the way residents get into federally controlled facilities and fly on planes. 

The Real ID Act was designed to make identification cards more secure and harder to duplicate or forge and was part of the recommendations issued by the 9/11 Commission.

Who Will Need a Real ID?

If you fly on domestic flights or visit federal facilities, you will need a Real ID-compliant form of identification.

You can still use a U.S. passport for flying or for visiting federal facilities after the deadline passes, but a non-compliant driver's license won't be sufficient. As a result of high demand, in late February, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office urged people who have other acceptable forms of ID – like a military ID or passport – to consider reapplying.

Real Id Illinois
Credit: Illinois Secretary of State

Where can I get a Real ID card?

In Illinois, you can obtain a Real ID card by visiting an Illinois Secretary of State facility.

While in Indiana, residents can apply for a Real ID card at Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices.

In Wisconsin, Real ID cards are available at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers.

What do I need to get a Real ID?

In order to obtain a Real ID, residents will need to provide documents that prove their identity, lawful status, their Social Security number and two documents that show proof of residency.

  • For proof of identity, a passport, a U.S. birth certificate, an employment authorization document or a permanent resident card will be accepted. Proof of lawful status can also be provided by a U.S. birth certificate, unexpired U.S. passport or a foreign passport with a visa and I-94 form.
  • Residents will also need to provide proof of their Social Security number. A Social Security card, a W-2 or a pay stub with a Social Security number on it will be accepted. 
  • Residency documentation will also be required, so residents will need to provide at least two proofs of residency. Those can include a utility bill, a rental agreement, a deed/title or a bank statement.
  • In Illinois, residents will need to provide proof of signature. A credit or debit card, a canceled check or a current Illinois ID can be used for proof of signature. In Wisconsin, the document for proof of identity must bear the person’s signature.

In Wisconsin, if a customer visits a DMV service center and does not have the required documents, the individual can be granted a 60-day extension on their current license or ID card, according to a DMV spokesperson.

group representing America’s airports is pushing for the federal government to delay the Oct. 1 deadline for travelers to get Real ID-compliant identification, warning that many states are struggling with the increased demand for the compliant cards. NBC 5's Natalie Martinez has the story.

What is the status of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin?

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin are fully compliant with the Real ID requirements, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

As of March 6, more than 840,000 Real ID cards have been issued in Illinois, according to Beth Kaufman, press secretary for the Secretary of State's Office. There are approximately 8 million drivers in Illinois, however Kaufman noted that not every residents needs a Real ID.

The state of Indiana has been issuing Real IDs since 2010, WTHR, the NBC station in Indianapolis, reported.

Wisconsin began issued Real ID compliant driver's licenses in 2013, but has recently seen an increase in applications across the state, according to a DMV spokesperson. Despite the increase in customer volume, 75% of DMV customers are being served within 20 minutes or less, the spokesperson stated.

As of March 1, 2020, more than 1,960,000 of the state's residents hold a Real ID-compliant driver's license or ID card, which amounts to about 42% of current Wisconsin cardholders.

In Wisconsin, it's highly unlikely that all customers will transition to a Real ID, according to the DMV. For example, the state issues a non-expiring identification card for persons 65 years and older. Since the ID card doesn't expire, it doesn't meet Real ID requirements.

"Many customers feel that this credential meets their needs and will not be otherwise impacted by the REAL ID enforcement deadline," a DMV spokesman said.

What about the other states?

A total of 48 states are currently issuing Real ID cards. However, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in February that it’s unlikely all states will meet the Oct. 1 deadline to issue Real IDs to their residents.

The state of New Jersey is “under review” for compliance by the federal government. Real IDs are currently being issued by the state, but only on an appointment basis.

Both Oklahoma and Oregon were previously granted extensions and have yet to begin issuing the cards. Oklahoma will start issuing Real IDs on April 30, 2020, at select locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, according to NBC station KFOR in Oklahoma City. The federal government granted Oklahoma an extension until Sept. 18, 2020, to comply with the Real ID Act.

While in Oregon, residents won’t be able to obtain Real ID cards until July 6. The delay was caused by a major overhaul of the DMV’s computer system, state officials said. Oregon was granted an extension until Aug. 7, 2020.

Real ID Compliance Map

Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Is the federal government doing anything to help states meet the Oct. 1 deadline?

In hope of reducing wait times, in mid-February, the Department of Homeland Security deemed it acceptable for states to allow residents to pre-submit identity and lawful status documents through a secure electronic process. The same documents must be brought to a department of motor vehicles office facility and be verified by personnel.

The option is up to the discretion of each state. Both Illinois and Wisconsin aren't allowing documents to be be pre-submitted, state officials said.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators expressed fraud concerns regarding pre-submission following the DHS announcement.

Credit: Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

What if my name has changed?

Documents indicating a name change, such as a certified marriage certificate, will be required if an applicant’s name is different than the one on their birth certificate.

Will minors need ID cards or driver's licenses to fly inside the U.S.?

No. The TSA doesn’t require children under the age of 18 to provide identification while traveling with a companion inside the U.S. The adult traveling with the child will need an acceptable form of identification.

What does a Real ID look like?

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin Real IDs all have a star in a circle at the top right corner to show they are federally compliant.

Credit: Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles

How much does a Real ID cost?

In Illinois, a Real ID card will cost the same as a driver’s license ($30) or a state ID ($20). If your current ID doesn’t need to be renewed, in Illinois, you can still apply for the Real ID, but there will be a $5 change fee. If your license does not expire for more than a year, the Real ID will still have the same expiration date, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

While in Indiana, a Real ID will also cost $17.50 for a driver’s license or $9 for a state-issued ID card. A state-issued ID card is free for residents who are at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and eligible to vote.

In Wisconsin, residents can receive a Real ID without paying an additional fee if the upgrade takes place when an individual’s driver’s license is renewed. If a person’s driver’s license doesn’t expire before 2020, they may obtain a Real ID-compliant license for $14.

Can you travel outside the U.S. with a Real ID?

Either a U.S. passport or passport card is still required for Americans who wish to travel outside the U.S.

What other forms of identification will I be able to use to get through TSA checkpoints?

A U.S. passport, a passport card, a military ID and a permanent resident card are among the acceptable forms of identification. A full list can be found on the TSA website. 

Under federal law, passport cards are not permitted for international air travel.

What is a non-compliant driver's license?

A non-compliant license shows you haven’t validated your identity, lawful status, SSN and/or residency. A non-compliant license will allow residents to drive and vote, but won’t be a federally-accepted form of ID. Travelers with non-compliant licenses will not be permitted through TSA checkpoints starting on Oct. 1.

Is a Real ID required to vote?

A Real ID is not required to vote in any of the 50 states. States that require ID to vote, including Indiana and Wisconsin, allow any current driver’s license or identification card issued by that state. 

Have additional questions?

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin all offer interactive document checklists to help ensure residents bring proper documents when applying.

For Illinois residents, the Secretary of State’s Office has set up a hotline to address concerns and help residents with the process. You can call the hotline at 833-503-4074.

In Indiana, if you’re having trouble producing the necessary documentation for a Real ID, you’re encouraged to reach out to the BMV customer service center at 888-692-6841.

Visit the DMV website for information regarding the application process in Wisconsin.

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