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The Most Up-to-Date REAL ID Information

Stephanie Cho

Information up-to-date as of April 24, 2019.

In just about a year and a half, on October 1, 2020, the consequences of REAL ID noncompliance will start to affect the lives of everyday Americans. Those that do not have a REAL ID compliant driver license or state-issued identification will be unable to travel commercially by air, even within the United States, as well as be unable to enter federal facilities, such as military bases, and nuclear power plants.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

In the absence of a compliant REAL ID identification document, folks will have to present one of the following in order to fly commercially, enter federal facilities, or enter nuclear power plants:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • Federally-recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Norhtern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

There have been several deadlines that have come and gone, making it seem like this upcoming 2020 deadline has the potential to be moved into the future again. But don’t feel complacent – this is the absolute final deadline.

The past deadlines had the caveat that residents of states not in compliance with REAL ID, but had been granted an extension were still able to do all the things those with REAL ID compliant identification could do. And with the exception of American Samoa back in January 2018 - no state or U.S. territory has been subject to the consequences of missing a deadline. America Samoa, on August 31, 2018, was granted an extension and is once again not subject to REAL ID consequences…yet.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), all states are currently either in compliance with REAL ID, granted a REAL ID extension, or are under review for REAL ID compliance; see image below.

REAL ID Compliance Complications

It isn’t quite clear, but it seems as though DHS has the ability to rescind a state’s REAL ID compliant status and/or make additional demands for further compliance from states that were already deemed REAL ID compliant.

For example, early in 2018, South Dakota made some minor updates to the design of their driver’s licenses and state identification – one of which was changing their REAL ID compliance symbol from a solid star to a star in a gold circle. According to the South Dakota Driver Licensing program, the change “meets the new federal REAL ID guidelines.”

Left: Prior South Dakota driver license (solid gold star); Right: Current South Dakota driver license (star in gold circle)

Considering several states, such as West Virginia, do not have a star in a gold circle as their REAL ID marking, we’ll just have to wait and see the actions DHS takes in regards to this particular condition of REAL ID.

Like the prior South Dakota driver license, the current West Virgina driver license has a solid star that may need to be updated to a star in a gold circle.

Additionally, the general confusion surrounding REAL ID compliance is amplified by the fact that the release of driver licenses and state identification cards with the REAL ID star does not mean that the state that issued them is actually in compliance with REAL ID. It may seem a bit strange, but REAL ID compliance is granted to states after they release driver licenses and state identification cards with REAL ID markings, running the chance that states may not be granted REAL ID compliance on the chance that their newly released REAL ID-marked driver licenses and state identification cards do not meet REAL ID specifications.

It’s easy to see that REAL ID is a complicated mess that is confounding states all over the country. So, as an individual, if you are confused by REAL ID, you’re not alone – it seems like very few people have a solid understanding of all the stipulations of the REAL ID Act.

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Simplifying REAL ID

And unfortunately, no matter how confusing it is, the October 1, 2020 REAL ID compliance deadline is fast approaching, with no clearer understanding of the exact stipulations. But, lucky for you, we’re here to help figure out this mess.

To help keep all of us up-to-date on pertinent REAL ID information, we have put together a PDF detailing REAL ID information state-by-state. View or download this PDF here.

If you’re looking for even more details, as well as photos of REAL ID compliant and non-compliant driver licenses, click here to get your hands on our Driver License Guide Book.

Stay tuned for further REAL ID updates!

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