Still Need an Illinois REAL ID? You Can Get One at the Chicago Auto Show

For the first time, REAL IDs will be offered by the Secretary of State's office at the Chicago Auto Show

Although the deadline for Illinois residents to receive a REAL ID has been extended by two years, those attending the Chicago Auto Show will have a unique opportunity to bypass the wait at the Secretary of State's office.

For the first time ever, the Illinois Secretary of State's office will be offering REAL IDs at the Chicago Auto Show, as guests can visit the office's booth in the southwest corner of the South Hall in booth 21.

In addition to offering REAL IDs, drivers can also renew a temporary visitor's driver's license, obtain driving records and renew vehicle registration at the Secretary of State's booth.

Although REAL IDs were initially set to be required for domestic flights and entrance to secure federal buildings by May 3, 2023, the deadline has now been extended to May 7, 2025.

“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. "DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.” 

Under REAL ID requirements, a driver's license no longer serves as sufficient identification for boarding domestic flights or entering secure federal buildings, such as a military facility or prison.

According to former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, "with this extension, current standard Illinois driver’s licenses or ID cards will continue to be accepted at airports for domestic air travel until May 7, 2025."

Once the new deadline is reached, anyone 18 years old and above will be required to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or identification card to fly domestically or visit a federal facility. Designated by a star and surrounding gold circle, REAL IDs are being issued in all 50 states.

But officials say not everyone needs a REAL ID. A valid U.S. passport is also a compliant REAL ID document, according to White, and can be used to fly domestically after the deadline.

Officials said the extension was necessary "in part, to address the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card."

"REAL ID progress over the past two years has been significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic," DHS said in a release. "Many of these agencies took various steps in response to the pandemic including automatically extending the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards and shifting operations to appointment only."

In Illinois, the deadline to renew expired drivers licenses was in 2020 extended multiple times -- eventually to Dec. 1, 2022 -- due to the effects of the COVID pandemic.

While that deadline has passed, Illinois residents will have two extra years to apply for and obtain a REAL ID.

"Illinois residents will be able to use their drivers license until that deadline to comes up to get on a plane," a spokesperson for the Illinois Secretary of State's Office said, of REAL ID's new May 7, 2025 deadline. "That will probably be its most common use."

The spokesman notes that a passport is also a legitimate form of REAL ID.

Here's what to know about getting a REAL ID, and why you'll soon need some version of a REAL ID to board a domestic flight.

What's a REAL ID and Why Might I Need One?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, "establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits certain federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards."

The act was originally scheduled to go into effect Oct. 19, 2021. However, due to the COVID pandemic, the deadline was extended to May 7, 2025. On that date, the act will be adopted in all 50 states.

What's the Difference Between an Illinois Driver's License and a REAL ID?

To the naked eye, the difference is designated by a star and surrounding gold circle in the top right hand corner of an ordinary looking Illinois driver's license.

However, to officials, a REAL ID denotes stronger security standards.

How Do I Know If I Should Get a REAL ID?

Residents are not required to get a REAL ID. However, they may serve as a more convenient form of identification when you travel domestically or visit a federal facility or U.S. military base.

For instance, if you ever travel by plane domestically, you might want to consider getting a REAL ID. If you don't have one, beginning May 7, 2025, you'll need to use either a current U.S. Passport or passport card at the airport's TSA security checkpoint.

If you're traveling internationally, a REAL ID will not be an acceptable form of identification. In that case, you must use a passport.

How Do I Get a REAL ID?

REAL IDs are currently being issued at Secretary of State driver's facilities across Illinois via application. The process must be completed in-person.

Those wishing to get a REAL ID must fill out a REAL ID application at one of those facilities, and provide five forms of documentation that prove identity.

According to the Secretary of State's office, here's exactly what you need:

  1. Either a U.S. birth certificate or a U.S. passport. An employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved I-94 form is also acceptable. If you've changed your name, you'll need to provide name change documents.
  2. Proof of a full Social Security number (SSN). Some examples are: an SSN card, a W-2 or a pay stub with your full SSN.
  3. Two current residency documents that list your full name. Some examples are: a utility bill, rental agreement, deed/title or a bank statement. Account numbers must be visible.
  4. Proof of your signature. Some examples are: a signed credit or debit card, canceled check or current Illinois (or out-of-state) ID.

A list of other examples of documents that prove identity is detailed here. Hard copy documents are required. Photocopies will not be accepted.

The Secretary of State's website offers a way to prepare for what you need ahead of time through the use of an interactive checklist.

How Long Does it Take to Get a REAL ID?

After filling out a REAL ID application and providing the proper documents, you'll immediately receive a temporary, paper REAL ID.

However, that temporary REAL ID will not be an acceptable form of identification if at TSA checkpoints. In order to fly, you'll need a permanent REAL ID, or a U.S. Passport or passport card.

A permanent REAL ID card will be mailed to you within 15 business days, according to the state.

How Much Does a REAL ID Cost?

According to the state, the fee for a REAL ID is the same as it is for a standard Illinois driver's license or state ID.

That means the cost of either an Illinois driver's license, or a REAL ID complaint driver's license, is $30. The cost of either a state ID, or a REAL ID compliant state ID, is $20.

However, the cost may be lower if you already have current, non-expired versions of either.

My Illinois Drivers License Isn't Expired. Can I Just Trade That in For a REAL ID?

If you recently renewed your driver's license, or it does not expire for at least another year, you may apply for a REAL ID for only $5. Your new REAL ID would then retain the same expiration date as your original license.

Residents can also apply for a REAL ID while renewing a driver's license at a Secretary of State Driver's facility.

Do I Need a REAL ID if I Have a Valid U.S. Passport or Passport Card?

If you have a valid U.S. passport or passport card, you may not need a REAL ID, and residents are not required to get one. However, REAL ID's may serve as a more convenient form of identification when you travel domestically or visit a federal facility or U.S. military base.

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