What is a REAL ID and do I need one?

As the deadline for REAL ID Act compliance for ID’s fast approaches, we hear this question often.  It can be confusing to understand whether you even need a REAL ID compliant ID.  This guide serves to help answer that question and provide resources where you can learn what is needed.  We will be posting a guide for how you can secure a REAL ID when Driver services facilities reopen following their March 16, 2020 closure. Like us on Facebook as another way to stay informed.

What is a REAL ID Compliant ID?

The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, set federal standards for driver’s licenses and ID’s intended to manage access to secure federal facilities and domestic travel.  The act has been slowly implemented over multiple years with a hard deadline set for compliance on October 1, 2020.  This deadline, in response to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak, has been extended until October 1, 2021.  Illinois is among 47 other states issuing REAL ID Act Compliant ID’s and non-compliant ID’s (regular driver’s licenses and state ID’s).  According to the Illinois Secretary of State, REAL ID Act compliant ID’s are designated with a gold circle with a star pattern.  Non-compliant ID’s have the text “Federal Limits Apply” printed on them.  This applies to Illinois ID’s and licenses.  Various other markings exist on other state ID’s and licenses and it is best to check with your local DMV.

Who Needs a REAL ID?

REAL ID Compliant ID’s will be needed to access domestic air travel (flights between locations within the USA), secure facilities such as nuclear power plants, and military bases.  Until implementation on October 1, 2021, valid state issued ID’s may be accepted even if they are not REAL ID compliant.  After October 1, 2021, either REAL ID compliant ID will be required or an acceptable alternative form of Identification such as a valid U.S. passport or passport card.   These restrictions generally apply to those 18 years and older though the Department of Homeland Security advises you verify that the airline or facility in question does not require additional documentation for minors.  

What If I Have CLEAR or TSA Pre®

While these programs help speed up access to airports, there is currently no policy to accept them as alternatives to REAL ID Act compliance.  Fortunately for those enrolled in these programs, a valid U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card is an acceptable document alternative. If you wish to stay up to date on whether these programs will be accepted in the future, we recommend you visit the Department of Homeland Security and see their Frequently Asked Questions where these are discussed as well as their list of acceptable alternative forms of identification.

We hope you and your family continue to remain safe.  Details included in this article are relevant to the date of posting.  If you have any questions about the content of this article or wish to discuss a traffic law question, you can contact our office at (630) 445-2293 for a free “Walk-In” phone consultation.