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Next October, the TSA will stop accepting standard driver's licenses as ID. Here’s how to get the Real ID—and why some people hate the idea.
Thanksgiving travel is the stuff of suffering: the crowding, the stress, the weather-induced delays, and, at least for some, dinner with the whole family. But come next year, your trip home, or anywhere else on a commercial airplane, may well demand something even worse: a trip to the DMV.
As of October 1, 2020, the TSA will stop accepting the old-timey driver's license you’ve likely got in your wallet as valid identification. So will other federal facilities, from courthouses to nuclear power plants. They will instead demand to see your Real ID, which will look just like your old one, with the addition of a star in the upper-right corner. This documentation is mandated by the Real ID Act of 2005, one of many post–September 11, 2001, moves by the federal government to buttress the national security apparatus. Critics, though, say the Real ID is an attack on civil liberties and a potential weapon for discrimination.
The Real ID isn’t a new kind of card—apart from that star. What’s changing is how you get one. Where states have historically set their own rules for verifying the details on your ID, they now must all follow federal standards. That means going to the DMV in person for your first Real ID. And it means showing up with a specific set of documentation that contains your full legal name, date of birth, and social security number. You’ll also need two proofs of address, plus evidence of “lawful status,” meaning that you’re a legal resident of the United States.
If you don’t get that done by the October 1 deadline, your current license won’t get you past the TSA. The security agents will accept other proofs of identity, though: You can show your passport, a permanent resident card, or an ID issued by a federally recognized tribe. And you can always flash your Merchant Mariner Credential.
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