What is the REAL ID Law?

Enacted as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001, and later approved by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID law was made to establish standards in the issuance of driver’s licenses in the United States.

The objective is to eliminate terrorism in air travel by increasing requirements to obtain official documents in order to board airplanes and to enter federal offices.

State offices that issue licenses and identification cards, such as the Secretary of State (SOS), are requiring more and more documents to prove residency.  In addition, new licenses will have more security features to prevent them from being falsified.

It has taken the federal government approximately 15 years to fully implement the law because each state has different rules.  However, all states must comply with these requirements by October 1, 2020.

This law has begun to be more restrictive for undocumented immigrants or other immigrants who cannot prove their legal stay in the country, or lack a Social Security number to obtain standard driver’s licenses.  The new standards might most affect noncitizens from certain states that previously did not require a Social Security number to obtain driver licenses, such as California, Washington, Nevada, among others.

If you do not comply with the REAL ID Act before the deadline of your state, you must show an alternative form of identification to board a domestic flight.  Your best option might be a valid passport.  Contact the nearest consulate of your country for more information on how to obtain your passport.

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