USA REAL ID: Everything You Need to Know
Without a doubt, it’s a challenging time to work in corporate travel management. As if the business travel landscape wasn’t already drastically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re also about to witness one of the biggest changes to airline travel in decades: the REAL ID.
By now, you’ve probably already heard a thing or two about REAL IDs – whether by following the news or reading the flyers posted at every airport security checkpoint. But do you really know how the incoming REAL ID mandates will impact your travel program?
At FCM, we are on a mission to make travel effortless and help your program run as smoothly as possible, so here’s everything you need to know about the REAL ID – including how it works and what this means for your travel program starting May 7th, 2025.
The REAL ID Act: A Breakdown
The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for the issuance and production of state ID cards (like driver’s licenses) and prohibits federal agencies from accepting any photo IDs that do not meet those standards.
In other words, this is the federal government’s way of telling states that their IDs need to become more secure and more difficult to falsify.
The Act, which was passed in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also aims at eliminating airline terrorism by increasing federal requirements for U.S. residents to obtain documents that would grant them access to domestic planes. As such, it prohibits TSA and other federal agencies from accepting any ID cards that do not meet revised security standards for domestic air travel.
What is a REAL ID Card?
A REAL ID is a driver’s license or state ID card that doubles as a federally recognized form of identification. Basically, it’s just like your ordinary driver’s license, but to get one, you need to present extra documentation to your state’s DMV or driver’s license agency.
It’s possible that your employees already have a REAL ID. How can you find out? Ask them to look for the star!
If they see a black or gold star in the upper-right corner of their ID card, that means they already have a REAL ID.
If they do not see a star OR their ID says something along the lines of “Federal Limits Apply,” that means they only have a standard ID. These are not federally approved forms of identification and, as such, will not be accepted at US airports starting May 2025.
What Happens if My Employees Don’t Have a REAL ID?
Due to various roadblocks and the COVID-19 pandemic, it has taken the federal government over 18 years to fully implement the REAL ID Act. However, all U.S. passengers who are of at least 18 years of age will need REAL ID-compliant identification to board domestic flights beginning May 7, 2025.
For a full list of REAL ID-compliant identification cards, check out the TSA’s official website.
Anyone who is unable to produce a valid REAL ID-complaint identification card will be unable to board their flight – throwing a wrench into existing travel programs.
Sure, if this happens to one employee that’s an inconvenience, but let’s say 2025 rolls around and you have a couple dozen employees attending an out of state conference and at least half of them are unable to produce a REAL ID-compliant form of identification.
That’s money lost on multiple non-refundable tickets, multiple charges on rebooking fees, multiple itineraries that need to be readjusted – and that’s if those employees are able to obtain a REAL ID in time to make the event at all.
At that point it’s not just an inconvenience – it’s a liability.
Getting Your Employees REAL ID Ready
If you haven’t already implemented a plan for getting your employees REAL ID ready – don't panic just yet! You still have a few years to go before this mandate goes into effect.
Luckily, a REAL ID is just a trip to the DMV away.
To obtain a REAL ID, employees will have to provide the minimum required documentation showing their full legal name, date of birth, social security number, two proofs of residency, and lawful status. Some states may require additional documentation, so make sure to have your employees visit their state’s DMV website for a list of all required documents before booking their appointment.
Interested in learning more about REAL IDs? Check out the Department of Homeland Security’s official website for more information on deadlines, frequently asked questions, and more.