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On May 3, 2023, U.S. travelers must be REAL ID compliant to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities.

If you travel by air, REAL ID will impact you.

May 3, 2023 is when REAL ID goes into full effect, and it’s going to matter if you find yourself in a Homeland Security scenario, such as boarding flights within the United States or entering certain federal facilities such as military bases or nuclear power plants. In these situations, your standard, state-issued driver’s license or ID card no longer will be good enough to prove you are who you say you are. Without a REAL ID, you’ll be turned away, which means that cross-country flight you’ve been planning to visit Aunt Louise in Arizona may turn into a long, scenic road trip.

Becoming REAL ID ready ...

The good news is that many people already have a REAL ID document, such as a valid U.S. passport or passport card, a DHS Trusted Traveler Card or an Enhanced Driver’s License. To learn more about the REAL ID program, visit the Department of Homeland Security RealID home. The bad news is your standard driver’s license or ID card isn’t on that list, unless you turn it into a REAL ID-compliant document.

Thankfully, becoming REAL ID-ready isn’t complicated. To turn your license or ID card into a REAL ID, simply visit a Secretary of State branch office or make an appointment at You’ll need to bring the required documents to prove your identity (see sidebar), and be aware that if you ever changed your name, you may need additional documentation. When your new license or ID comes in the mail, it will have the REAL ID star in the top right corner.

The big message is don’t delay. Be ready.

For more information, visit