What to Know About Real ID

What is a Real ID?

A Real ID is a type of identification that will be necessary to fly domestically or visit Federal facilities starting in 2025. Think of it less as a singular item and more as a tier of identification. For Minnesotans, this can be a Real ID driver’s license, a Real ID identification card, or an enhanced driver’s license. In Minnesota, the Real ID is indicated by a gold star in the top right corner of the ID. For those planning to fly domestically or enter any federal facilities after May 7, 2025, a Real ID might be a good idea, since a standard driver’s license won’t cut it anymore. 

Why do I need one?

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 as a response to the September 11th Attacks. According to a report from the 9/11 Commission, the hijackers had obtained forms of U.S. identification and some were obtained fraudulently. As a result, the 9/11 Commission recommended that the Federal Government set standards for “secure identification.” The report reads, “sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.” Nearly twenty years later, the law is still yet to take full effect. 

Why was the deadline extended?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that they moved the Real ID deadline to May 7, 2025, while previously the deadline was May 3, 2023. According to DHS, they extended the deadline because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. DHS’s website reads “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.” 

Moving the Real ID deadline is nothing new. The act was originally passed and signed by George W. Bush, and since then the deadline made its way through three separate presidencies. There have been a handful of un-adhered to deadlines, dating all the way back to the act’s inception (they include January 2008, December 2009, April 2011, January 2013, October 2020 and October 2021, and most recently May 2023). Meeting these deadlines is costly for states, which is perhaps why the Federal government continues to extend it. Obtaining a REAL ID requires an in-person visit to DMVs, which then requires more DMV personnel and perhaps longer hours. 

How do I get one?

The Real ID process requires Minnesotans to visit their DMVs in-person and bring in documents that validate their identities. Applicants must bring something that proves their identity and legal presence in the U.S. this could be a passport, birth certificate, permanent resident card, or certificate of citizenship. They must also bring their social security card or a W-2 to validate their social security number, and lastly they must bring two documents that prove Minnesota residency, such as a driver’s license, tax return, utility bill, or credit card statement. Digital documents are not accepted, so no photos of social security cards or birth certificates are allowed. 

Minnesota has also developed a pre-application process that makes obtaining a Real ID a little easier. Though it only takes care of part of the application process, it cuts the time spent at the DMV and even recommends which documents to bring based on your pre-application materials. 

MSP International Airport also has a Real ID office, so if you’re flying out of Terminal 1, you can fill out the pre-application, set up an appointment for the day of your trip, and bring your documents in. 

How much does it cost?

Similar to the cost of renewing a driver’s license, the Real ID driver’s license costs $31.25 and the Real ID identification card costs $21.50. 

On a much broader scale, the Department of Human Resources predicted that enforcing the Real ID act would cost $9.9 billion over 11 years, in shared costs between states and the Federal Government. However, this report was published in 2008, and we have surpassed the 11 year mark. 

Can you travel without one?

Yes, domestic air travel will still be possible without a Real ID, passports meet the federal requirements for identification and will allow for domestic and international travel come 2025. Minnesotans can also use an enhanced driver’s license to travel, which is Real ID compliant, though enhanced driver’s licenses are not available to non U.S. citizens. 

Does everyone need one? 

Minors are not required to get a Real ID, so for those under 18 there’s no pressure to meet that deadline, though Real ID driver’s licenses are available for new drivers. Beyond that, you can get around the Real ID requirements by traveling with a passport instead.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to get a Real ID? 

No, though the application process does require applicants to provide proof of legal residence. To obtain a Real ID driver’s license or ID card, U.S. citizenship is not required, however to get an enhanced driver’s license, U.S. citizenship is required. 

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