In less than a year, the Real ID will become a reality. What was just a news item a few months ago is now beginning to take shape. If you weren’t really listening or were putting off dealing with getting one when it comes time to renew your driver’s license, then you may have some questions. You are not alone.

Some of the most Googled questions about the Real ID include: What is the Real ID? Do I really need one? When does the Real ID system start? Can I fly without a Real ID? Where can I get one? 

These questions just scratch the surface on what drivers and travelers are looking into when it comes to this stricter identification program. If you have questions about this federally mandated program, then read on to find out the most common questions regarding this subject. 

What is the Real ID? 

In response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that identification requirements be tightened, Congress passed the Real ID Act (2005). The act establishes minimum security features and bars federal agencies from accepting any ID that doesn’t meet those specifications. The Real ID is required only for entering airport security checkpoints and boarding aircraft, as well as entering secured federal facilities such as federal courthouses and nuclear plants. It’s not required in other instances when you might be asked to show ID, such as voting or registering to vote, applying for or receiving federal benefits, and/or accessing health- or life-preserving services. 

Do I Really Need a Real ID? 

Come October 1, 2020 every U.S. air traveler will be required to present a Real ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification such as a U.S. passport, to board a domestic flight. TSA will not allow you on the flight without proper ID. If you do not have any thoughts of flying or entering a federal courthouse, then you may not ever be in a situation to need a Real ID. 

Where Can I Get a Real ID? 

Your local Registry of Motor Vehicles will have the list of needed documentation as well as the forms to fill out to apply for a Real ID. To find your closest RMV click here. The forms are also online. For AAA members you can also get your Real ID at your local AAA branch. Call ahead first to be sure you have the right paperwork. 

What Documents Are Needed? 

If you believe you may need to travel in the future and don’t hold any of the other appropriate documentation like a U.S. Passport, you will want to start gathering the needed documentation. 

You will be asked to bring two proofs of residency. This could include a recent utility bill or bank statement. You will also need proof of identity and legal residence in the United States. For this portion of the documentation you could provide a birth certificate, U.S. passport or permanent resident card and a Social Security card (not just the number). A W-2 form listing your Social Security number is an acceptable alternative to a Social Security card.

Keep in mind that your name must match on all forms. So if you have gotten married or divorced and those proceedings have included a name change, you will need to provide documentation for that as well. 

Since the deadline to upgrade to a Real ID is approaching, you might find that DMV offices are busier than usual. According to the Huffington Post online 27 million people will need to apply for the Real ID by October 1, 2020 and thus far only 3 million have done so. So as the weather starts getting colder take a few minutes to start gathering the paperwork you will need and fill out the forms for the Real ID.