(NEXSTAR) — Soon, if you want to fly in the U.S. or visit some federal buildings, you’ll need to have a little feature on your driver’s license or ID — an asterisk. And while the federal deadline to have that star on your ID is months away, many officials recommend starting the process sooner rather than later.
This star, which can take five different forms, means that your driver’s license or government ID is REAL ID.
After the September 11 attacks, a special commission recommended that the federal government adopt certain minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards. In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to do just that.
Under the REAL ID Act, federal agencies such as the TSA are prohibited from accepting state-issued IDs that do not meet minimum federal standards. Department of National Security. This means that if you do not have a REAL ID by the current federal deadline of May 3, 2023, you will not be able to fly domestically, visit certain federal facilities, or enter a nuclear power plant.
While you still have more than 200 days to get your REAL ID, here are a few things you should know.
What documents are needed to get a REAL ID?
When the REAL ID Act was first passed, states required different types of driver’s license documents, with some wanting more than others.
Fortunately, all states now require applicants to provide at least the same information: proof of legal name, date of birth, social security number, legal residence, and two forms of your address.
Acceptable documents for these cards include a valid passport, birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, valid permanent resident card, US certificate of naturalization, expired work authorization document, or international passport with a valid US visa. Federal officials recommend checking your state’s requirements before going to the DMV, as other documents may be accepted.
You will need to present these documents in person to receive a REAL ID, but depending on your state, you may be able to start part of the process online.
Several states—Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont—issue REAL IDs and enhanced driver’s licenses. Washington only issues enhanced driver’s licenses. These, according to US Customs and Border Patrolinclude a chip designed to facilitate entry into the United States from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean by land or sea.
State-issued driver’s licenses are marked with a check mark, not a star, and will be accepted at airport security checkpoints when the federal REAL ID implementation date arrives.
Can I fly without a REAL ID?
You can until the federal deadline of May 3, 2023.
At this point, the TSA says that every traveler flying within the U.S. will need to present a REAL ID-compliant ID or a state-issued enhanced driver’s license.
If you do not have a REAL ID, you can use other acceptable forms such as a valid passport or US military ID. TSA lists other forms of ID that can also be used to board the plane.
When do I need to apply for REAL ID to meet the deadline?
Although you still have about eight months before you need a REAL ID to fly or visit federal facilities, officials across the country encourage you to get one as soon as possible.
However, if your license expires in the next few months, most state officials say you can wait until closer to that date. Otherwise, starting the process sooner will help you avoid the rush of REAL ID applicants that some officials expect to see next spring.
How soon you need to apply for a REAL ID to meet the deadline depends on the state in which you live.
In some states, such as Missouri, Oregon, and Florida, ID cards usually arrive in your mailbox within seven to ten days of application. In others, including New York, California and Indiana, it can take up to two weeks. For states like Utah and Texas, it can take up to six weeks. In Hawaii it can take up to two months.
Ultimately, you’ll want to check with your local DMV to determine approximately how long it will take for your REAL ID to become available.
Chances are you already have a REAL ID-compliant ID card. While the appearance varies by state, if your driver’s license has a gold or black star in the upper right corner, you are already the proud owner of a REAL ID. Or, if you live in a state that uses enhanced driver’s licenses, you qualify for REAL ID.