Identification Update

Learn the history of Real ID and discover what you’ll need to get one.

By Meredith Landry

GettyImages 1132774350 Identity Orange

In less than a year, things are going to get real for Illinois travelers who want to board domestic commercial flights. For those who fly—as well as need access to federal facilities, enter nuclear power plants or visit military bases—a deadline is looming. You will need a Real ID as of Oct. 1, 2020.

With the clock ticking, there are details to understand about a Real ID, what it is and how it will affect you. It’s vital to know how this new law and history have converged, the necessary documents to obtain a Real ID, and if you actually need one. While it can be a little complicated, you still have time.

Understanding Real ID

With millions of people in Illinois and across the country now on the clock, there is a growing national conversation surrounding Real ID. It’s a transition that has been in the works for 14 years.

In 2005, the Real ID Act was passed by Congress after the 9/11 Commission recommended “the federal government set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The information and verification process for licenses and identification cards that led to Real ID was established at this time. Illinois was among many states that initially opposed the Real ID law.

“The federal government basically wants you to start from scratch on proving your identity,” said Henry Haupt, a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, in a recent radio interview.

Travelers won’t need a Real ID if they have a passport, federal government PIV (Personal Identification Verification) or U.S. military-issued ID. If you decide not to opt-in, beginning Oct. 1, 2020, you will need to bring another form of identification to the airport to fly domestically. A standard driver’s license won’t be enough to validate your identity to board a flight.

It’s expected that most will use a Real ID to get through a TSA checkpoint for domestic air travel. Touring a nuclear power plant may not be in the majority of people’s plans, but many people visit federal facilities such as courthouses and military bases, so it will be necessary to be prepared for entrance. “If you don’t fly domestically, you don’t need a Real ID,” Haupt said. “If you don’t visit secure federal facilities, you don’t need a Real ID.”

What You Need to Get a Real ID

For a Real ID, Illinois residents can visit any driver services facility that isn’t a mobile facility or express facility. A Real ID costs $5 for residents whose driver’s license expires in more than a year. Real IDs cost the same amount as a standard driver’s license renewal, which is $30. The documents needed for residents to get a Real ID include:

  • One document displaying their full legal name, like a certified birth certificate copy or U.S. passport.
  • One document that proves their social security number, like a social security card or W-2 form.
  • Two different documents that prove Illinois residency, such as a utility bill, canceled check or pay stub.
  • One document with proof of written signature, like a current Illinois or out-of-state license.

While the deadline is still almost a year away, time flies. If you plan to fly domestically in the future, gather your documents and make plans to get a Real ID.

The Illinois Secretary of State office has an interactive checklist that identifies the documents residents need to obtain a Real ID: realid.ilsos.gov/checklist.html.

About the Author

Meredith Landry is a freelance writer from Los Angeles.

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