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  6. DHS Steps Up REAL ID Education and Awareness Efforts

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DHS Steps Up REAL ID Education and Awareness Efforts

Release Date: January 24, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently sent letters to the Governors of all states, the District of Columbia, and territories asking them to provide DHS with a monthly update of the number of REAL IDs issued by their jurisdictions. The states now report to DHS that they have collectively issued more than 95 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards (34%) out of 276 million total cards. While this is a noteworthy improvement over the 67 million REAL ID-compliant cards (27%) out of a total 249 million total cards previously reported in the fall, DHS urges the American public to get a REAL ID immediately and not wait until the deadline.

Importantly, the Department has been increasing its overall education and awareness efforts with national organizations, the travel industry, state governments, federal agencies, and Congress.  For example, DHS recently met with both the National Governors Association (NGA) and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) to emphasize the importance of getting the American public prepared for the REAL ID deadline and to solicit their ideas for making it easier for Americans to obtain a REAL ID.

“Over 95 million Americans already have REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and the number is increasing every day. DHS continues doing everything it can to inform Americans on the requirement to obtain a REAL ID or acceptable alternative ID before the full enforcement deadline for domestic air travel,” said Acting Secretary Wolf. “The real work is still ahead because two-thirds of all licenses are presently not compliant with REAL ID. Americans should be mindful that their future preparations for flying and accessing certain federal facilities include getting a REAL ID or alternative, such as a passport.”

Watch Acting Secretary Wolf’s Message to Air Travelers on YouTube

To encourage the submission of ideas and solutions from across the Nation, DHS also issued a Request for Information (RFI) on November 7, 2019, requesting substantive business and technical proposals that could streamline the REAL ID application requirements while still ensuring the security and protection of identity information. The RFI period closed on December 9, 2019 and DHS received 69 submissions from the public, states, private sector, and associations. DHS is expediting its review of the proposals and will work with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress, as necessary, to implement viable solutions.

While it is the states that are responsible for issuing cards, DHS has worked extensively with every state to provide time, technical assistance, and make grants available to support compliance with the REAL ID Act security requirements. DHS urges the states, District of Columbia, and U.S. territory officials to act to ensure that all their eligible residents obtain driver’s licenses or identification cards that meet these enhanced security standards.

Beginning October 1, 2020, every commercial air traveler must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or other acceptable forms of identification, such as a valid passport or U.S. military ID, to fly within the United States. Individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.

DHS is committed to enforcing the REAL ID Act in accordance with the regulatory timeframes. The American traveling public should check with their driver’s licensing agency for more information on how to apply for a REAL ID.

Learn more about REAL ID at tsa.gov/real-id. For information about flying with REAL ID, and to download the REAL ID toolkit, visit tsa.gov/real-id. To apply for a U.S. passport, visit travel.state.gov.


Based on a recommendation from the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, the REAL ID Act set security standards for the issuance and production of state driver’s licenses and identification cards designed to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fake or fraudulently-obtained driver’s licenses and identification cards. The threat articulated by the 9/11 Commission is real and the United States is enforcing sound identity management practices to bolster homeland security. While each state decides whether it will comply with the REAL ID Act, all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories are either already compliant or are in the process of implementing their REAL ID programs.

As states are responsible for issuing the licenses, there is some variation amongst the states in the physical appearance of their REAL ID cards. REAL ID-compliant cards have a “star” marking at the top of the card; star markings may be gold, black, or white, against various backgrounds. Upon enforcement, in lieu of using a REAL ID-compliant card, individuals may instead present an acceptable alternative form of identification, such as a U.S. passport, passport card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, or an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDLs) issued by the states of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

Last Updated: 03/08/2021
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Be REAL ID Ready!

Deadline: May 7, 2025