Real ID & You
Real ID comes as a result of the Real ID Act, as suggested by the 9/11 Commission, which was passed in 2005. As travel experts, we are focused on its effect on travel, since Americans who wish to fly domestically will need to have Real ID-compliant state IDs by October 1, 2020. Alternatively, travelers will need to bring other forms of identification with them, like a passport.
However, Real ID will also be used to access federal areas as well as nuclear power plants. If an American does not use a state ID for air travel and access to federal areas and nuclear power plants, then Real ID compliancy is not a worry to that individual because it is optional. Other United States citizens, however, need to get it by 2020.
On a separate but related note, travelers with Enhanced Driver’s Licenses may still use them. This kind of optional ID is different from Real ID but is nevertheless acceptable. The license permits its beholder to travel to and from Canada, Mexico, and various countries in the Caribbean. While convenient, only five states offer them: Vermont, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington.
Real ID-compliant California IDs will have a gold bear, with a star in the middle of it, in the upper right-hand corner. A star of some sort, like that star in the gold bear, will appear on all Real ID-compliant identification. Furthermore, Real ID-compliant identification can be obtained at the DMV. An applicant will need to provide various documentation to prove identity. New state IDs that are not compliant will say so where the star would appear on Real ID-compliant identification.
The objective of Real ID is to provide greater security measures. The United States, while a large country, has no commonly used form of national identification. Passports can fill this void, but state IDs are used by and large. Real ID helps establish minimum security standards in commonly used state IDs. This prevents the illegal creation of fake IDs and ensures safety in areas with some level of federal presence, including commercial airports.