REAL ID Act update: Time to apply for your compliant driver’s license


At the end of last year I wrote the December Travelwise column about The REAL ID Act. What is the REAL ID Act? As a refresher, The REAL ID Act was enacted on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver licenses. The REAL ID Act was initially passed by Congress in 2005 and has since been enforced in three phases. The final phase, which addresses boarding a commercial aircraft and accessing federal facilities, is under way.

October 2018 marked the latest in a series of compliance deadlines for the REAL ID Act. In Virginia, you get to choose whether to obtain a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID card or renew or apply for a standard credential.

Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require you to present a REAL ID compliant form of identification in order to board a domestic flight. Your standard driver’s license, like the one you may have in your wallet right now, can be used to drive, as well as ID to vote, cash a check, apply for government benefits or conduct everyday business. Bottom line: Everything remains the same until October 1, 2020. Until then, Virginians can continue to use their current Virginia-issued credentials. However because of a federal law change, beginning October 1, 2020, you will not be able to use this style of Virginia driver’s license to board a domestic flight or to access secure federal facilities.

Virginia began issuing the compliant forms of ID on October 1, 2018. REAL ID compliant licenses and ID cards look the same as cards issued prior to October 1, 2018, except they have a circle with a star in the top right-hand corner of the credential, while non-compliant licenses and ID cards display “federal limits apply” on the face of the card. After the deadline, if you do not have a compliant driver’s license, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will accept either a U.S. passport, DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST), U.S. military ID and a permanent resident card as acceptable identification.

Here is what you will need to get a REAL ID: The process is similar to Virginia’s current driver’s license/ID card application process, except that additional documents are needed. All applicants for a REAL ID must apply to DMV in person, pay a one-time $10.00 REAL ID surcharge in addition to standard fees such as the standard replacement card fee.

If your driver’s license expires before October 2020, you may want to wait until it’s time to renew to upgrade to the REAL ID. You will avoid the replacement card fee. If your driver’s license expires after October 2020, you have more than a year to take care of your REAL ID.

My recommendation would be to apply sooner rather than later as I have found most people wait until the deadline and panic when they have a flight booked for October 2020 and not the correct ID—unless you plan to start carrying your passport for your domestic flights!

Remember, the wait at DMV can sometimes be long. You will also need to provide several additional forms of identification, so now is a great time to start gathering your information. You will need:

  • One proof of identification and one proof of legal presence. A certified copy of your birth certificate or an unexpired U.S. Passport will do. If your name does not match your birth certificate, you will need additional documents to present evidence of your legal name change.
  • Two proofs of Virginia residency (voter ID card, utility bills or mortgage statements, postmarked mail displaying applicant’s name and current address)
  • Your Social Security Number. Social Security card or W-2 form is suggested.
  • Virginia driver’s license displaying current Virginia address.

For a complete list of acceptable documents, visit

From all of us who have written the Travelwise column during the past year, we wish you safe travels during your December holidays!

About Donna Croushore 20 Articles
Donna Croushore is owner/manager of Creative Travel & Cruise, located in Port Warwick. She can be reached at 757-898-4006 or visit the website at

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