Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, updated with new information.
Abandoning its upcoming May 2023 deadline, the Transportation Security Administration has announced that travelers now have another two years to get a Real ID compliant for air travel in the U.S.
As of May 7, 2025, TSA will require all driver’s licenses presented at checkpoints to be Real ID-compliant for travelers 18 and older.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had planned to start requiring Real IDs for flyers on Oct. 1, 2020, but pushed the deadline back numerous times during the COVID-19 pandemic; this was because many states’ physical Department of Motor Vehicles locations shut down or operated at reduced capacity, then faced significant backlogs.
The 2025 deadline extension decision came about in part to “give states needed time” due to backlogs caused by the pandemic, according to a DHS press release issued today.
“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,” the statement said.
As a result, all air travelers age 18 and older now have until May 7, 2025, to obtain a Real ID.
“DHS continues to work closely with U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to meet REAL ID requirements,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a press statement on Dec. 5. “This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card. The DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.”
How to determine if you have a Real ID
Because several states have issued Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses for years, there’s a decent chance your license is a Real ID. In general, you can tell if your driver’s license is Real ID-compliant by looking at the star in the upper right or left corner, as shown below.
If you see the star but want to double-check that your ID is compliant, the DHS has a tool on its website that can help you figure out whether your ID will work for air travel. You can also use that page to check by state and determine what it will take to get a Real ID.
How to get a Real ID
In many states, getting a Real ID may only involve renewing your driver’s license. Every state in the U.S. — as well as the District of Columbia and four of five U.S. territories covered by the Real ID Act and related regulations — are now compliant with Real ID security standards, the DHS said earlier this year. This means all residents should be able to obtain their Real ID-compliant driver’s license. The cost varies by state, ranging from $10 to $85.
We’d recommend making a plan and potentially setting an appointment to get your ID soon since you can still run into cases where state DMVs are booking appointments weeks or even months out.
On top of that, there will likely be many travelers looking to renew their licenses in the months leading up to the deadline, so planning ahead can be helpful. As of this spring, less than half of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards were Real ID-compliant, according to the DHS.
Can you still fly if you don’t have a Real ID?
If you cannot get a Real ID between now and May 7, 2025, there are still ways you can fly, provided that you bring the necessary documentation to the airport.
Most notably, the TSA will accept U.S. passports and passport cards, U.S. Department of Defense IDs, the DHS Trusted Traveler Card and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses (which are issued in certain states and provide proof of both identity and U.S. citizenship).
Also note that even if you have Clear or TSA PreCheck, you will still need to have an ID that matches the requirements under Real ID.
Some of you may already have a Real ID in your wallet. For those who don’t, you now have until mid-2025 to obtain one, after which you’ll need a Real ID to get through TSA checkpoints.
Additional reporting by Sean Cudahy.