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REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions

REAL ID - Deadline - October 1, 2020Frequently asked questions and answers regarding the implementation the REAL ID Act. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.

Additional questions may be sent to the Department of Homeland Security at REALID@hq.dhs.gov.

For the Public

Q: What is REAL ID?

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.  These purposes are:

  • Accessing Federal facilities
  • Boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft
  • Entering nuclear power plants

Q: When will REAL ID be enforced?

The final enforcement deadline is October 1, 2020.  By this date, not only must all states be issuing Real ID-compliant licenses or IDs, but individuals must also have visited their state’s driver’s licensing agency and obtained a REAL ID compliant card, or acceptable alternative such as a U.S. passport, if they wish to fly on commercial aircrafts or access federal facilities.

Q: What happens on October 1, 2020?

Federal agencies, including DHS and TSA, may only accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards as identification for purposes of accessing federal facilities - including TSA airport security checkpoints - if the license or card was issued by a REAL ID compliant state in accordance with the REAL ID security standards (meaning the license or card must include the REAL ID compliant star marking).  Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards and will also be accepted for official REAL ID purposes.  Most EDLs do not contain the star marking and this is acceptable.

Q: Are all states issuing REAL ID compliant cards?

DHS is working closely with all states and territories to provide assistance and guidance to achieve full compliance by the October 1, 2020 deadline.  As of September 5, 2019, 50 states and territories are fully compliant with the REAL ID requirements, and all states are on track to begin issuing compliant licenses and IDs by the October 1, 2020 deadline.

Q: How do I get a REAL ID?

Visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID.  At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:  1) Full Legal Name; 2) Date of Birth; 3) Social Security Number; 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and 5) Lawful Status.

States may impose additional requirements, so check with your state’s driver’s licensing agency website, before visiting them in person, for additional guidance and assistance.

Q: How do I know if my license or identification card is REAL ID compliant?

REAL ID-compliant cards will have of one of the following markings on the upper top portion of the card.  If the card does not have one of these markings, it is not REAL ID-compliant and won’t be accepted as proof of identity in order to board commercial aircraft.

Examples of REAL ID markings

Examples of REAL IDs:

Example of REAL ID from South Carolina

Example of REAL ID from the District of Columbia

Example of REAL ID from Rhode Island

Example of REAL ID from New York

Example of REAL ID from California

Q: When will I need to change how I travel domestically?

Beginning October 1, 2020, every state and territory resident will need to present a REAL ID compliant license/ID, or another acceptable form of identification, for accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft.  The card, itself, must be REAL ID compliant unless the resident is using an alternative acceptable document such as a passport or passport card, or state-issued Enhanced Driver’s License. The Act does not require individuals to present identification where it is not currently required to access a Federal facility (such as to enter the public areas of the Smithsonian) nor does it prohibit an agency from accepting other forms of identity documents (such as a U.S. passport or passport card).

Q: Will minors need to have driver's licenses/ identification cards to fly domestically?

No.  TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.

Q: What happens to travelers who show up without a compliant license? Will TSA turn them away?

Travelers who do not present a REAL ID-compliant license or acceptable alternative beginning October 1, 2020 will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.

Q: Is a passport my only other option?

No. TSA accepts several other forms of identity documents. For more information on acceptable forms of identification for boarding aircraft, please visit TSA’s website at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

Starting October 1, 2020, every state and territory resident will need to present a REAL ID compliant license/ID, or another acceptable form of identification, for accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft.  The card, itself, must be REAL ID compliant unless the resident is using an alternative acceptable document such as a passport. The Act does not require individuals to present identification where it is not currently required to access a Federal facility (such as to enter the public areas of the Smithsonian) nor does it prohibit an agency from accepting other forms of identity documents (such as a U.S. passport or passport card).

Q: Can I use my REAL ID card to cross the border into Canada and Mexico and for international travel?

No.  REAL ID cards cannot be used for border crossings into Canada, Mexico or other international travel.

Q: Can I use my REAL ID for sea (cruise) travel?

No.  REAL ID cards cannot be used for international sea cruise travel.

Q: Do I need a passport if I have a REAL ID?

If you are traveling internationally you will still need your passport.  If you are traveling domestically, you will only need one valid form of identification – either your REAL ID or another acceptable alternative such as a passport, not both.

Q: What type of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards does the Department of Homeland Security currently accept as identification to access its buildings and facilities and at TSA airport security checkpoints?

Until full enforcement of REAL ID begins on October 1, 2020, DHS and its component agencies, including TSA at its airport security checkpoints, will continue to accept for identification purposes all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by  compliant states, as well as noncompliant states with a valid extension.

Q: Will a federal agency accept my Enhanced Driver's License?

Yes. State-issued Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDLs) are designated as acceptable border-crossing documents by DHS under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and are acceptable alternatives for official federal purposes such as accessing a Federal facility or boarding a commercial aircraft. Individual agency policies may still apply.

Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington are the only states that currently issue EDLs. For more information on EDLs, please go to https://www.dhs.gov/enhanced-drivers-licenses-what-are-they.

Q. What about non-DHS federal entities?  What types of licenses and identification cards will they accept for access purposes?

Federal agencies have the authority to set their own minimum security access requirements and, if desired, decide not to accept noncompliant marked cards before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

For example, The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently finalized an update to its DoD-wide installation security policy and is in the process of no longer accepting noncompliant marked cards across all of its facilities and installations.  However, DoD will continue to accept state-issued noncompliant unmarked "legacy" cards until the October 1, 2020 deadline.

To ensure you have the proper identification, DHS recommends that you contact the federal agency you plan to visit in advance, to obtain information regarding identification requirements.
As a reminder, the REAL ID Act applies when an individual presents a state-issued driver’s license or identification card to a federal agency for an “official purpose” as defined in the Act and regulations, such as boarding a federally regulated commercial aircraft.  Although a REAL ID card may not be necessary for other purposes such as driving, voting, banking, or applying for benefits or employment, we recommend checking with the relevant state, local, or commercial entities regarding their specific identification requirements.

Q: Is DHS trying to build a national database with all of our information?

No. REAL ID is a national set of standards, not a national identification card.  REAL ID does not create a federal database of driver license information. Each jurisdiction continues to issue its own unique license, maintains its own records, and controls who gets access to those records and under what circumstances. The purpose of REAL ID is to make our identity documents more consistent and secure.

Q: How does REAL ID implementation impact states that provide driver's licenses and IDs to certain non-citizens/undocumented immigrants?

REAL ID allows compliant states to issue driver's licenses and identification cards where the identity of the applicant cannot be assured or for whom lawful presence is not determined.  In fact, some states currently issue noncompliant cards to undocumented individuals. Noncompliant cards must clearly state on their face (and in the machine readable zone) that they are not acceptable for REAL ID  purposes and must use a unique design or color to differentiate them from compliant cards.  DHS cautions against assuming that possession of a noncompliant card indicates the holder is an undocumented individual, given that individuals may obtain noncompliant cards for many reasons unrelated to lawful presence. Possession of a noncompliant card does not indicate that the holder is an undocumented individual, given that individuals may obtain noncompliant cards for many reasons unrelated to lawful presence.

Q: How will the phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program affect state issuance of driver's licenses and IDs to DACA beneficiaries?

The REAL ID Act allows states to issue temporary (i.e., limited-term), REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and ID cards to applicants who provide valid, documentary evidence that they have “approved deferred action status.”  [Sec. 202(c)(2)(B)(viii)]  Under the REAL ID regulation, applicants with approved deferred action who hold valid Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and Social Security Numbers (SSNs) may qualify to receive temporary REAL ID driver's licenses and ID cards.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Program standardized and expedited the process for obtaining these supporting identification documents for individuals with Deferred Action seeking REAL IDs.  Individuals with approved Deferred Action, valid EADs and valid SSNs may continue to hold temporary (limited-term) REAL IDs until their expiration.  In any case, REAL ID compliant states may continue to issue noncompliant licenses and IDs to individuals with or without lawful status, including deferred action, as defined under the REAL ID Act.

Q. Can a person who was granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) get a REAL ID-compliant license/ID? How long will it be valid?

Yes, a TPS beneficiary can obtain a REAL ID compliant license or identification card. The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain designated countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.

The validity period of the license or ID card generally depends upon the length of the TPS period.  When DHS designates or extends TPS status for a country, it can do so for 6 months or longer through a Federal Register Notice. A TPS beneficiary’s status is tied to a country designated for TPS. Pursuant to Section 202(c)(2)(C)(ii) of the Real ID Act of 2005, a temporary driver's license or temporary identification card issued to individuals who have a pending or approved application for TPS “shall be valid only during the period of time of the applicant's authorized stay in the United States or, if there is no definite end to the period of authorized stay, a period of one year.”

For purposes of assessing compliance with the REAL ID Act, please note that there is no definite end to the period of authorized stay for TPS beneficiaries who present a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that contains a Category Code of A-12 or C-19 and a “Card Expires” date from the list below.  

  • 07/05/2016
  • 07/22/2017
  • 11/02/2017
  • 01/05/2018
  • 01/22/2018
  • 03/09/2018
  • 06/24/2018
  • 07/05/2018
  • 11/02/2018
  • 01/05/2019
  • 04/02/2019
  • 06/24/2019
  • 07/22/2019
  • 09/09/2019
  • 01/02/2020
  • 01/05/2020
  • 03/24/2020

An EAD that meets the above description is valid documentary evidence of TPS required by the Real ID Act of 2005, Section 202(c)(2)(B)(vii) and is acceptable for REAL ID purposes. Although a response from the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program confirming immigration status provides a designation end date for TPS, these individuals do not have a definite end to the period of authorized stay. Pursuant to Section 202(c)(2)(C)(ii) of the Real ID Act of 2005, a temporary driver's license or temporary identification card issued to individuals who have a pending or approved application for TPS “shall be valid only during the period of time of the applicant's authorized stay in the United States or, if there is no definite end to the period of authorized stay, a period of one year.”

Issuance of REAL ID Compliant Documents to Citizens of the Freely Associated States

On December 17, 2018, President Trump signed the REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act, Public Law 115-323.  This Act amends the REAL ID Act of 2005 to authorize states to issue full-term REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards to citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (collectively known as the Freely Associated States, or FAS) who have been admitted to the United States as nonimmigrants pursuant to a Compact of Free Association and who meet the identification requirements of the REAL ID Act.

Q:  What does the legislation do?  Citizens of these countries are nonimmigrants and have only been issued temporary/limited term licenses in the past. 

The REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act amends the REAL ID Act to separate citizens of the Freely Associated States from the categories of non-U.S. citizens who are only eligible to receive a temporary (limited term) REAL ID- compliant driver’s license or identification card with a validity period no longer than the period of authorized stay in the United States, or if there is no definite end to the period of authorized stay, one year.  With this amendment, citizens of the Freely Associated States who present acceptable evidence of identity and lawful status under the REAL ID Act and its implementing regulations should now receive a full-term driver’s license or identification card, rather than a temporary one.  

Q:  What identity and lawful status documents will FAS citizens need to present in order to obtain a REAL ID compliant license?

DHS recently designated an unexpired foreign passport with an approved I-94, with a valid visa no longer required, documenting the applicant’s most recent admission to the United States under a Compact, as  acceptable documents FAS citizens may present to establish identity in order to obtain a REAL ID license or identification card.  FAS citizens also may present one of the other identity documents listed in the regulations, including an unexpired passport, with a valid, unexpired visa (if applicable), and approved I-94, an unexpired employment authorization document, or a previously issued REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card (in which case, a valid passport and I-94 is acceptable evidence of lawful status). In all cases, the documentation presented for proof of identity and lawful status must be verified through Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE).

Q:  What if an applicant states he or she has been in the United States for a number of years and does not have a valid passport?

Freely Associated States citizens who entered the United States lawfully years ago may have passports that have expired.  In order to be issued a REAL ID-compliant document, they will need to renew their passport or present another acceptable identity document, such as an unexpired EAD.

Q:  What will the validity period be for REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification cards issued to citizens of the Freely Associated States who present the necessary identity and lawful status documents?  Will these documents look any different from documents issued to a U.S. citizen?

The appropriate validity period of the driver’s license or identification card will be consistent with the state’s regular expiration period for full-term REAL ID-compliant documents and carry the same compliant markings without any additional language.

Q:  Will other classes of nonimmigrants be eligible to present a valid passport and I-94 for proof of identity and lawful status and be issued a REAL ID-compliant document?

The designation of the unexpired passport with an approved I-94 as an acceptable identity document is only available to Freely Associated States citizens admitted under the Compacts.  This designation does not change the requirement for other classes of nonimmigrants to present a valid unexpired passport, valid unexpired visa, and I-94; or an EAD as evidence of identity and lawful status.  In all cases, the documentation presented for proof of identity and lawful status must be verified through Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE).

Q: Are other categories of non-U.S. citizens that are only eligible to receive a temporary (limited term) REAL ID-compliant document eligible for a regular full term REAL ID-compliant document?

The REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act only applies to citizens of the Freely Associated States and enables them to receive full-term REAL ID licenses.  Other categories of non-U.S. citizens in a “temporary lawful status” as defined in the REAL ID regulations remain eligible for temporary (limited term) REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card with a validity period no longer than the period of authorized stay in the United States, or if there is no definite end to the period of authorized stay, one year.  These categories of individuals in a “temporary lawful status” as defined in the REAL ID regulations include a person who is a nonimmigrant; has a pending application for asylum; has a pending or approved application for temporary protected status; has approved deferred action; or has a pending application for lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident status.

Q. Does the REAL ID Act require an applicant who wears a head covering for religious reasons to alter or remove the head covering so that the driver’s license or identification card photograph shows their hair or ears?

No. The REAL ID regulatory standards for the digital photograph recognize that some individuals may wear head coverings for religious or other reasons. However, such coverings should not obscure an applicant’s facial features or generate a shadow. For purposes of the photograph, the face should be visible from the hairline to the chin and forward of the ears, and be free of shadows. The REAL ID regulation does not require the exposure of the hair line or the ears.

State Compliance

Q. Where can a state find information on the REAL ID Act and regulations?

A. Links to the REAL ID statute and regulations, along with supporting documents, may be found on the DHS website (www.dhs.gov/secure-drivers-license-documentation) You may also contact the Department of Homeland Security at REALID@HQ.DHS.Gov.

Q. What information does a state need to submit to DHS in order to obtain a DHS Determination of Compliance?

A. The REAL ID Regulation (6 C.F.R. Part 37, Subpart E) details the information a state should submit to DHS in order to obtain a DHS Determination of Compliance.

Q. Where should states seeking a DHS determination of compliance send its certification package?

A.  DHS recommends that jurisdictions submit both a hard copy and an electronic copy.

Mail: 245 Murray Lane, SW; Mail Stop 0460; NAC 17-02-208-03; Washington, DC 20528

Email: REALID@HQ.DHS.Gov

Q. How does DHS review a state’s certification package?

A. DHS will review the information a state submits and may conduct interviews with state employees and conduct audits or site inspections as may be needed.  In some cases DHS may make a Preliminary Determination of Noncompliance and identify any deficiencies in the state’s program for issuing REAL IDs.  States will been given time to correct any deficiencies identified by DHS.  Once DHS determines that the state meets the full requirements of the Act and implementing regulation, DHS will issue a Final Determination of Compliance to the state.

Q. Can jurisdictions meeting the standards of REAL ID continue to issue non-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards?

A. Yes. REAL ID allows jurisdictions to issue identification cards and driver’s licenses that are not in compliance with the requirements of the Act. Those licenses and identification cards, however, must clearly state on their face and in the machine readable zone that the card is not acceptable for official purposes.

Q. If my state issues an Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, is that sufficient for my state to be REAL ID compliant?

A. State Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) designated as acceptable border-crossing documents by DHS under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) are acceptable for official Federal purposes (i.e., boarding a commercial aircraft, accessing a Federal facility, or entering a nuclear power plant). However the existence of an EDL is not sufficient to consider the state to be in overall compliance for purpose of determining whether a Federal agency may accept a state’s regular driver’s license for official purposes. For example, a Federal agency could accept an EDL issued from a state but not be able to accept a standard driver’s license from that same state.

Q. Why is DHS recertifying states already determined to be compliant?

A. DHS makes determinations that a state is meeting the minimum requirements of the REAL ID Act based upon certifications submitted by the state to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The REAL ID regulation prescribes how these certifications are to be made. In particular, the REAL ID regulation requires that states recertify their compliance with the Act every three years, on a rolling basis, as determined by DHS.

Q. Why is DHS recertifying compliant states at this time?

A. DHS issued the first Determinations of Compliance for states in December 2012. At that time, key technologies for verifying applicant information were still under development. These technologies have since been deployed and DHS can recertify all compliant states based upon a common set of standards and available technologies.

Q. How will DHS implement the recertification of compliant states?

A. Twenty-three states received DHS Determinations of Compliance from 2012 through 2014. These states meet the criteria for recertification. DHS will recertify these twenty-three states on a rolling basis. Approximately five states will be recertified at a time. As DHS completes a recertification review for each state, an additional state will be selected for review. This process will be completed when all twenty-three qualified states have been issued Determinations of Compliance. Thereafter, DHS will initiate recertifications of REAL ID compliant states every three years.

Q. How will the public be impacted by the recertification process?

A. The recertification process does not change the compliant status of states under review. Recertification will not affect the ability of residents of compliant states to use their REAL ID driver’s licenses and IDs for official purposes. If DHS finds that a state is not currently meeting all of the minimum standards of the REAL ID Act and regulation, then DHS will work closely with the state to draft and fully implement corrective action plans to close these gaps.

State Extensions

Q.  What is an extension?

A.  Federal agencies may not accept for official purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by states that do not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act.  However, the Act authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant extensions of time to meet the REAL ID requirements to states that provide adequate justification for noncompliance. Federal agencies may accept for official purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by noncompliant states that have been granted extensions by DHS.

Q. How long will an extension last?

A.  The length of an extension is determined at the discretion of the Secretary.

Q: Why are most states receiving extensions for less than 12 months?

A: All but four of the 56 states/territories will be issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses/IDs by early 2019 and won’t need a full year to achieve full compliance with all REAL ID requirements.

Q. What happens when a state’s extension expires?

A.  When a state's extension expires, the state is subject to the statutory prohibition against Federal acceptance for Federal purposes of the state's driver's licenses and identification cards. However, the Secretary may grant states with an expired extension a short “grace period” before Federal agencies begin REAL ID enforcement actions at nuclear power plants, Federal facilities, including military bases, and at commercial airports.  States that do not receive an extension are subject to REAL ID Enforcement on January 22, 2019.

Q. How will DHS determine whether to grant an extension to a jurisdiction?

A.  DHS will consider the following factors in determining if a state has provided adequate justification for noncompliance:

  1. Has the highest level executive state official overseeing the state’s Driver Licensing Authority committed to meet the standards of the REAL ID Act and implementing regulation;
  2. Has the state documented: the status of both and unmet requirements; plans and milestones for meeting unmet requirements; and a target date for beginning to issue REAL ID compliant documents;
  3. Has the state participated in periodic progress reviews with DHS on the status of unmet requirements?

Q. Will an extension be renewable?

A.  Extensions are renewable at the discretion of the Secretary provided the state has provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance. Renewal is not automatic. Extensions will be renewed only if the state demonstrates continuing progress in meeting the REAL ID standards.

State Implementation

Q. Can states accept electronically submitted copies of source documents from applicants?

A. On November 7, 2019, DHS issued a request for information (RFI), published in the Federal Register, to receive input on technologies that could assist states and their residents in the digital submission, receipt, and authentication of documents and information applicants must provide when applying for a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card. DHS received 69 responsive comments and completed its preliminary review of the responsive proposals. Based on this review, DHS has identified one viable option that can be immediately implemented by the states, territories, and District of Columbia, hereafter “States,” consistent with existing authorities.

On February 19, 2020, Acting Secretary Wolf informed the States that effective immediately, they are permitted to implement the acceptance of electronically submitted copies of source documents with certain restrictions. Specifically, the States may now add the pre-submission of identity and lawful status source documents, through a secure electronic process, prior to an applicant’s in-person DMV visit, and physical presentation of those same documents for authentication and verification by DMV personnel.

States had requested this ability during the RFI process stating that electronic pre-submission helps streamline the application process by: 1) ensuring that an applicant has the correct information and, 2) allowing a state to electronically retain that information prior to the applicant’s in-person visit. Retaining the information in advance eliminates time-consuming activities associated with the physical scanning and retention of source documents that typically occurs during the applicant’s DMV visit. States informed DHS that this can have a direct impact on reducing overall applicant wait times and improving customer satisfaction. DHS guidance to the States recommend that they consider implementing this option.

DHS continues to evaluate the other proposals for action and is working with the Office of Management and Budget and Congress, as necessary.

Q. At what point in the application process should states capture the applicant's image?

A. States should capture the applicant's image at the beginning of the licensing process when the applicant submits a completed application to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) representative for processing. If at any time during the application process fraud is suspected, the DMV should make every attempt to capture the applicant's image whether or not a completed application is submitted for processing.

Q. Does the REAL ID Act require an applicant who wears a head covering for religious reasons to alter or remove the head covering so that the driver’s license or identification card photograph shows their hair or ears?

A. No. The REAL ID regulatory standards for the digital photograph recognize that some individuals may wear head coverings for religious or other reasons. However, such coverings should not obscure an applicant’s facial features or generate a shadow. For purposes of the photograph, the face should be visible from the hairline to the chin and forward of the ears, and be free of shadows. The REAL ID regulation does not require the exposure of the hair line or the ears.

Q. Does an applicant have to provide documentation of all previous names if the name on the identity source documents – e.g., birth certificate – is different from the current legal name that will be displayed on the new license or identification card to be issued?

A. The applicant should demonstrate name traceability, i.e., a connection between the name presented on the source document and the name requested to be on the issued document. States may choose the kinds of documentation individuals should present as evidence of this traceability. Individuals do not have to provide a complete listing of all the names that they may have previously used.

Q. What classifications of aliens are eligible for full-term compliant driver's licenses?

A. Aliens lawfully admitted for permanent or temporary residence, aliens with conditional permanent resident status, aliens with an approved application for asylum, and aliens who have entered the United States as refugees are eligible for a full-term REAL ID license or identification card.

Q. Occasionally an alien may present a document that on its face has an expiration date that has already passed, yet the document has been extended by DHS and should be regarded as unexpired. Can a state accept a document under these circumstances?

A. To date this situation is limited to individuals who have applied for and/or been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS), whose Form I-766 Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) are subject to an "automatic extension" by DHS. DHS grants "automatic extensions" – typically six months – in this situation through a Federal Register notice. The Federal Register notice includes information on how to identify EADs subject to the extension and provides the new expiration date for these EADs. For more information on TPS, visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' TPS webpage.

Q. Can a "Temporary" or "Limited Term" license be renewed remotely?

A. No. Temporary or limited-term licenses and identification cards need to be renewed in person and upon presentation and verification of valid documentary evidence that the temporary lawful status is still in effect or that the individual has lawful status in the United States.

Q. How should a "Temporary" or "Limited Term" license be marked?

A. Temporary and limited term cards need to clearly indicate both on its face and in the machine readable zone that they are temporary and include the expiration date.

Q. What is the purpose of an exceptions process?

A. DHS recognizes that each jurisdiction is unique and needs flexibility to tailor an exceptions process to meet its individual needs and circumstances. An exceptions process helps states address unique situations where individuals, for reasons beyond their control, are unable to present one or more of the identity documents listed in the regulations. For example, following a natural disaster, for reasons beyond a person's control, documents necessary to establish identity and lawful status may no longer be readily available or obtainable. In such cases, states may need to rely on alternate documents to establish their identity or U.S. citizenship.

Q. Should states inform DHS when they change their exception process?

A. DHS understands that circumstances may require the development or modifications to a state's exceptions process following certification. In such cases, a state only needs to report to DHS its new or modified process when DHS conducts a periodic compliance recertification process.

Q. Should states have an independent laboratory assess the physical security features of their driver's licenses or identification cards?

A. No. States should employ multiple levels of security features for the detection of false cards, and submit a report to DHS that indicates the ability of the card design to resist compromise and document fraud. However, there is no need for a state to hire an independent laboratory to assess the documents or prepare a report.

Q. How should states mark compliant and non-compliant licenses so that screeners can easily distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable state-issued driver's licenses or identification cards?

A. While DHS recommends that states adopt the general design marking (aka "gold star"), per the REAL ID Security Plan Guidance Handbook, states may submit for DHS review and approval alternative methods of marking documents to clearly differentiate a compliant card from a non-compliant card. Those methods could include differentiations in color, lettering, and/or format.

Q. Upon renewal do applicants need to re-submit any documents that were required at the time of the initial application?

A. Except for holders of temporary or limited term licenses or identification cards, applicants renewing their licenses or identification cards do not need to re-submit identity source documents unless there has been a material change in any personally identifiable information (PII) since prior issuance.

Q. What would be considered a material change in Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?

A. Material change includes any change to an individual's PII, which is defined in the regulations to include information to demonstrate identity, date of birth, or social security number, as well as information that appears in databases or in the machine readable technology of the license or identification card. Notwithstanding the definition of PII, material change does not include a change of address of principal residence.

Q. May states issue a duplicate REAL ID remotely?

A. Yes. States may use remote procedures to re-issue a duplicate card – a card that bears the same information and expiration date as the original card – as long as there has been no material change to the card-holder's PII since prior issuance and the document bears the same expiration date as the original document. States may choose to re-verify an applicant's SSN and lawful status when issuing a duplicate driver's license or identification card.

Q. If a state has already copied an individual's identity source documents, social security information, and proof of address prior to full compliance, does the individual need to re-submit those same documents when applying for a compliant license for the first time?

A. DHS understands that some states may currently require presentation, verification, and retention of identity source documents, social security information, and proof of address in a manner that meets the minimum regulatory standards. This also includes meeting the minimum standards for employee background checks, fraudulent document recognition training, and information security and storage requirements. States already meeting these standards do not need to have applicants resubmit identity source documents upon initial application for a compliant document.

Q. New York, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington currently issue "enhanced driver's licenses" (EDLs) that are designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security as acceptable to enter the United States at land and sea ports of entry in accordance with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Are EDLs acceptable for official federal purposes such as boarding a commercial aircraft?

A. Yes. State EDLs designated as acceptable border-crossing documents by DHS under WHTI are acceptable for official federal purposes such as boarding a commercial aircraft or entering a federal facility.

Last Published Date: February 21, 2020

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