Imagine planning your dream vacation or an important business trip, only to be stopped at the airport because your ID isn't up to federal standards. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Starting May 7, 2025, this could be your reality if you don't have this item.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

You Need To Have This by 2025 Or You Cannot Fly In The United States

The clock is ticking, and the stakes are high. A standard ID just won't cut it anymore when it comes to boarding domestic flights or accessing federal facilities. In this article, we'll break down the critical differences between a standard ID and a REAL ID, and explain why upgrading to a REAL ID is not just a recommendation—it's a necessity. Don't get left behind; learn what you need to do to stay compliant and keep flying smoothly in the United States.

"Starting May 7, 2025, every air traveler 18 years of age and older must have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. 2024 is a good time to get your REAL ID. Contact your state DMV for more information." -TSA.GOV


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What's The Difference Between An ID and a REAL ID?

The main difference between an ID and a REAL ID lies in the level of verification and the purposes for which each can be used. Here's a detailed breakdown:

These sample driver’s licenses show the differences between a REAL ID Pennsylvania license and a regular license. Credit: PennDOT

Standard ID

  • Definition:
    • A standard ID is a regular state-issued driver's license or identification card.
  • Verification Process:
    • Issued based on basic identity verification processes, which may include providing documents like a birth certificate, Social Security card, and proof of residency.
  • Uses:
    • Can be used for driving (if it's a driver's license), identification, and accessing certain services within the state.
    • Generally accepted for everyday activities like purchasing alcohol, voting, and accessing banks or medical services.
USA Passport with Social Security Card, Drivers License and Birth Certificate.
Getty Images/iStockphoto


  • Definition:
    • REAL ID is a state-issued driver's license or identification card that meets the enhanced security standards set by the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.
  • Verification Process:
    • Requires more stringent documentation and verification processes to confirm identity, including:
      • Proof of identity (e.g., birth certificate or passport)
      • Proof of Social Security number (e.g., Social Security card or tax document)
      • Proof of residency (e.g., utility bill, lease agreement)
      • Additional security features and anti-fraud measures are embedded in the card itself.
  • Uses:
    • In addition to all the uses of a standard ID, a REAL ID can be used for:
      • Boarding domestic flights within the United States.
      • Accessing federal facilities and military bases.
      • Entering nuclear power plants.

Why is a REAL ID Better?

  1. Enhanced Security: The REAL ID includes advanced security features that reduce the risk of identity fraud and counterfeiting.
  2. Federal Compliance: Starting May 7, 2025, a REAL ID (or another TSA-approved form of identification) will be required to board domestic flights and enter certain federal facilities.
  3. Wider Acceptance: Because of its enhanced verification and compliance with federal standards, a REAL ID is recognized for more purposes compared to a standard ID.
Photo Courtesy of New York DMV
Photo Courtesy of New York DMV


While a standard ID is sufficient for many day-to-day activities, a REAL ID is required for certain federal purposes and offers greater security. Upgrading to a REAL ID ensures compliance with federal regulations and facilitates smoother access to a variety of services and facilities. Get your REAL ID before May of 2025. 

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