(NEXSTAR) – Next year you will need a REAL ID card to fly in the US, visit certain federal facilities and enter a nuclear power plant. While this deadline may seem daunting, you may not need to go through the process at all to get a REAL ID.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a special commission recommended that the federal government issue certain minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identity cards. In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to do just that.
As part of the REAL ID Act, federal agencies like TSA are prohibited from accepting state-issued IDs that don’t meet minimum federal standards, according to the Department of Homeland Security. This means that if you do not have a REAL ID by the current federal deadline of May 3, 2023, you will not be able to fly domestically, visit certain federal facilities, or enter a nuclear power plant.
States now require you to show at least five identifying aspects: legal name, date of birth, social security number, legal residence, and two forms of your address. But before you start gathering those documents for a dreaded visit to your next DMV, check your wallet — you might already have a REAL ID-compliant ID.
Many states have been issuing REAL IDs for years, which means if you obtained or recently renewed your license, it’s likely REAL ID compliant.
The way to know this is to check the top right corner. It should be some kind of star. It’s either black or gold, a star or a cut out star or a cut out star in a bear if you live in California. For example, this sample Kansas driver’s license has a gold circle with a white star cutout.
If your driving license or ID card does not have a star, it is still valid and you can still fly with it until the 2023 deadline. Without REAL ID, you will need another form such as a valid passport or US military ID. TSA lists other types of ID that can also be used to board an airplane.
Those who choose not to obtain a REAL ID will receive licenses like the one pictured below, which will say “Federal Limits Apply” in place of the asterisk.
State-level officials are encouraging those who want a REAL ID card before the deadline to start the process earlier to avoid a rush of applicants that is expected to wait until spring.
How quickly you need to apply for a REAL ID to meet the deadline depends on the state you live in.
In some states, such as Missouri, Oregon, and Florida, IDs typically arrive in your mailbox within seven to 10 days of applying. In others, including New York, California and Indiana, it can take up to two weeks. For states like Utah and Texas, it can take up to six weeks. In Hawaii it can take two months.
Finally, you should check with your local DMV to determine approximately how long it will take for your REAL ID to be available. If you have additional questions about REAL IDs, you can visit the TSA or DHS website or contact your local DMV.