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TSA Confirms Real ID Will Be Mandatory to Fly Starting May 7, 2025 | Frommer's Iowa DOT

TSA Confirms Real ID Will Be Mandatory to Fly Starting May 7, 2025

This post was originally published in December 2022 and contains updated information.

The deadline for all Americans to be using Real I.D., the strengthened identification format that was announced in 2005 during the George W. Bush administration after the security disasters of September 11, 2001, has been affirmed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Americans must not really need safer identification at airports and federal buildings that badly, because the repeated delay of Real ID's eternally approaching deadline has become one of the most reliable running jokes in travel.

Previously announced "deadlines" for either states or travelers to comply have included December 31, 2009; May 11, 2011; January 15, 2013; October 1, 2021; and September 30, 2021.

In December 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pushed the deadline from May 3, 2023, to May 7, 2025.

In a statement explaining the umpteenth easement, DHS wrote, "progress over the past two years has been significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic."

And less than a year before the final implementation of Real I.D., that date appears to be sticking.

If this new date for Real ID compliance holds, babies who were born when Real I.D. was originally imagined will be old enough to be traveling with babies of their own by the time it's finally in place. We'll have gotten a whole new Star Wars trilogy, two new Avatar movies, and two new Indiana Jones sequels in the time it's taken. 

The concept behind Real ID was to standardize the types of proof that are required to obtain state-issued identification. The original goal was to ensure everyone boarding commercial airlines would carry a piece of identification that verifies who they are through documentation of citizenship status and two forms of proof of address, and to allow the federally operated airport security system to have access to those data points.

You wouldn't think it would be that hard to make happen. But a pandemic, and political accusations of a grand unconstitutional scheme, gummed up the works, and a failure to make compliance free or affordable to the poor added a wrinkle of classism.

The delay was worsened in states that have been too slow, sometimes intentionally, at clearing their application backlogs and issuing the new types of I.D. Many of the states that dragged their feet at fulfilling the tighter identification requirements in a timely matter are the same ones that have agitated for new voting laws requiring specific types ID at the ballot box. The preceding paragraph should be all the proof you need that the United States has become a place where scandal-intoxicated lawmakers say one thing but do the opposite, so nothing changes.

You might already have Real ID and don't even know it because the last time you renewed your ID, the new documentation may have been a part of the process.

If your driver license or state identification card has a gold star on it as seen in the photo above (your state's version may vary; in California, it's a gold bear), it has been verified through Real ID.

The Department of Homeland Security is still standing by that May 5, 2025 drop-dead day. In late May 2024, it even issued a press release warning stragglers in Connecticut to get their acts together by then or else "officers who staff the ticket document checking station at airports will not allow travelers into the checkpoint." 

If you don't want to use Real I.D. come May 2025—and you will probably have to, anyway, if you drive a car, since that's the main license option many states will be furnishing—then you'll have to use a valid U.S. passport. Here's how Americans can apply for a passport.