The start of October means Tuesday marks the one-year countdown to get your REAL ID before a standard driver’s license will no longer be accepted at TSA checkpoints when flying. That's because of the REAL ID Act passed by Congress in 2005, following a recommendation from the 9/11 commission. The change led to minimum security standards for state-issued driver's license and identification cards. 

But according to a new study conducted by Longwoods International and commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, the majority of frequent travelers still haven’t signed up to get their new identification card.   

According to a summary of the study’s findings, an estimated 72% of Americans either don't currently have a REAL ID or they aren't sure if their license is one or not. 

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Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, REAL IDs will be needed in order to board commercial aircraft, access federal facilities and enter nuclear power plants. Starting on that date, the Department of Homeland Security and TSA will only accept state-issued licenses and identification cards that are compliant with REAL ID security standards.  

After that date, if you don't have a REAL ID, you're 18 or older, and you want to board a domestic flight, you'll need a valid passport, active duty military ID, or any of the other documents listed here. Additionally, Enhanced Driver's Licenses issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont, are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-complaint cards. 

But, according to the survey, 39% of Americans say they don't currently have any form of identification that will be accepted after the REAL ID deadline. That means an estimated 99 million Americans may not currently have the proper identification needed to board a flight starting October 2020.  

The easiest way to tell whether or not your state-issued license is a REAL ID is whether you have a star marking the upper top portion of the card. In California the star is on a bear emblem similar to the one on the state flag.  

Examples of REAL IDs
Examples of what REAL IDs look like.
Department of Homeland Security

According to the survey, most Americans are also unaware about the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline for air travel. It found 57% of respondents either didn't know about the deadline or mistakenly thought you'd need a REAL ID for something else instead. 

To get a Real ID at a California DMV, you will need the following: 

  • An identity document that shows your date of birth and "true full name such as a passport or your birth certificate.
  • Proof of a Social Security number showing your full name such as a Social Security card or W-2
  • Two proofs of residency that include your first and last name and mailing address that will be shown on your REAL ID such as a utility bill or bank statement. 

The California DMV encourages residents to visit their REAL ID checklist for more information.

Homeland Security REAL ID star
Homeland Security fact sheet showing examples of REAL ID markings on driver's licenses.
Homeland Security