Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

Are You REAL ID Ready? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

The deadline for requiring a REAL ID for domestic air travel is May 7, 2025

by Fergus Cole

April 8, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of DHS

The deadline for needing a REAL ID to board domestic flights within the United States is just over a year away. While many may be rushing to their local DMV office to get an updated driver’s license or state ID card, it is possible to skip that process and get a passport card instead.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It established a minimum security standard for state-issued ID cards and driver’s licenses to prevent duplication and forgery. 

Once the REAL ID Act is fully enforced, a REAL ID-compliant form of identification will be needed to board any federally regulated commercial aircraft, including domestic flights, and to access federal government facilities, military installations, and nuclear power plants.

Deadline to Comply

The deadline for needing a REAL ID to board flights was initially scheduled for October 1, 2020, but this has been delayed several times due to processing delays caused by the pandemic. 

It was first pushed back to October 2021, then again to May 2023, and then once again to the current deadline of May 7, 2025. After this date— assuming the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) doesn’t extend the deadline further—passengers over 18 must show REAL ID-compliant identification at TSA security checkpoints before boarding any commercial flight.

Are you REAL ID ready?

All 50 states in the country and the District of Columbia are now issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and state ID cards, so if you have updated your ID recently, it may already be a valid REAL ID. 

You can identify a state-issued REAL ID by a gold or black star, depending on the state, in the top right-hand corner of the card. However, if you haven’t updated your license or ID in a few years, you may need to do so to be REAL ID-ready.

Photo: Courtesy of DHS

But according to David Alwadish, the founder & CEO of Passport & Visa Services, you can bypass the DMV and get REAL ID-ready with an alternative form of identification—a passport card. 

A passport card can only be used for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Unlike a traditional passport book, a passport card is valid for domestic air travel and REAL ID-compliant, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Advantages of a Passport Card

Getting a passport card instead of a passport book has several advantages. Firstly, it costs only $65 for first-time applicants, compared to $165 for a passport book. Secondly, it is the same size as a standard driver’s license, making it more convenient to carry in your wallet.

To apply for a passport card, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website at and follow the instructions. You must fill out a short online form with your personal details, provide evidence of U.S. citizenship, and submit a photo of yourself. 

Then, print out the form and take your documents to the nearest passport acceptance facility, such as a post office, library, or local government office.

Once your application is approved and you receive your passport card, it will remain valid for ten years.