The REAL ID Act, legislation that passed in 2005, established “minimum security standards for license issuance” according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The act prohibits federal agencies from “accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.”
Update: As part of the CARES Act of 2020 The Department of Homeland Security extended the Real ID enforcement deadline to October 21, 2021.
The REAL ID Act affects access to military bases and other federal property, clearance to enter nuclear power plants, and the ability to board federally regulated passenger or commercial aircraft.
Military members who are assigned to a new state should learn whether their old or new license or ID card is acceptable at the military base they are about to start working at before they show up at the main gate for entry. Alternate forms of ID may be required other than a driver’s license depending on a state’s compliance or extension/grace period for coming into compliance with REAL ID requirements.
What The REAL ID Act Requires for Compliant ID Cards and Driver’s Licenses
To be compliant, a state-issued ID intended to be used to board federally regulated aircraft, military bases, etc. must have at a minimum the following information:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Driver’s license or identification card number
- Digital photograph of the card holder
- Tamper and counterfeit-resistant security features
- “Common machine-readable technology”
Additional Requirements for Lawful Residence in the United States
When applying for a REAL ID Act-compliant license or ID, the following requirement applies according to the wording of the original House Resolution, H.R. 1268. A state issuing a compliant license or ID card will require “valid documentary evidence” that the applicant:
- is a citizen or national of the United States
- is an alien lawfully admitted for permanent or temporary residence in the United States
- has conditional permanent resident status in the United States
- has an approved application for asylum in the United States or has entered into the United States in refugee status
- has a valid, unexpired non-immigrant visa or non-immigrant visa status for entry into the United States
- has a pending application for asylum in the United States
- has a pending or approved application for temporary protected status in the United States
- has approved deferred action status, or
- has a pending application for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States or conditional permanent resident status in the United States.
All States Are Not Fully Compliant with the REAL ID Act
At the time of this writing, not every state is fully compliant with the REAL ID Act. Licenses/ ID cards may be issued that are not fully conforming.
This would seem to be a problem for those seeking access to air travel or military bases. The Department of Homeland Security has issued extensions for nearly all non-compliant states to help them implement these requirements in a reasonable amount of time.
What It Means To Have A Non-REAL ID Act Compliant License or ID Card in A State with A Federal Extension
Those who live in states that have extensions granted for implementation of the act may use their existing ID cards without a problem until the extensions noted below at the time of this writing.
Expiration of State Extensions for REAL ID Act Compliance
The Department of Homeland Security official site says, “As of October 10, 2018, 37 states, territories, and the District of Columbia have been determined by DHS as compliant with all REAL ID requirements. The other 19 jurisdictions are noncompliant, but have been granted a temporary extension from enforcement.”
If states currently under extensions permit those extensions to expire without becoming fully REAL ID Act compliant, “the state is subject to the statutory prohibition against Federal acceptance for Federal purposes of the state’s driver’s licenses and identification cards.”
It may be possible for states with an expired extension to receive a short grace period “before Federal agencies begin REAL ID enforcement actions at nuclear power plants, Federal facilities, including military bases, and at commercial airports” according to DHS.
What Happens If a Non-Compliant State Does Not Receive Another Extension
If DHS does not extend the current round of extensions for compliance, some advice given to newcomers to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska might apply to others:
“After 06 June 2017, visitors with an Alaska Driver’s License will NOT be authorized to receive a DBIDS pass for unescorted entry onto JBER, unless Alaska is granted an extension or identified as REAL ID Act compliant by the Department of Homeland Security. If Alaska does not receive an extension and is not considered REAL ID Act compliant, visitors must provide an alternative form of ID on the attached BBP or be escorted via Trusted Traveler by a DoD card holder.”
Those seeking access to military bases could provide a passport, “trusted traveler” card, a biometric ID card that was issued by a federal, state, or other government agency, etc.
States That Are under Extension Until noted dates for REAL ID Act Compliance
|Noncompliant Jurisdiction||2019 Extension Ends|
|Northern Marianas||Under review|
|American Samoa||Under review|
|New Jersey||Under review|
|Oklahoma||September 18, 2020|
|Oregon||August 7, 2020|
A REAL ID Act Compliant ID Card Or Driver’s License Requirement to Get A DBIDS ID Card
Many military bases have transitioned to use of the Defense Biometric Identification System for military base access. Applying for this card normally includes a requirement to use a REAL ID Act-compliant ID or a replacement for those not allowed by passports, trusted traveler cards, or other ID that meets federal standards for DBIDS.
Gaining Access to Military Bases without A Compliant ID Card Or License
Those PCSing or going TDY to a military base that does not accept your state ID or license will require alternate forms of ID.
A birth certificate will likely not be acceptable since there is no photo or other required information. Passports, visas, or other required replacement documentation may be necessary. The individual standards may vary on the installation you need to access. It is best to call ahead to the military base Pass & ID section, Security Forces desk, or Visitor Center to learn what alternative forms of ID may be acceptable especially after October 10, 2018.
REAL ID Act Full Implementation Requirements
October 21, 2021 is the deadline for “every state and territory resident“ to carry a REAL ID compliant license/ID, or another acceptable form of identification.
In 2020, this is required for all access to military bases and federal facilities, nuclear power plants, and commercial aircraft.
DHS states that the act “does not require individuals to present identification where it is not currently required to access a Federal facility (such as to enter the public areas of the Smithsonian) nor does it prohibit an agency from accepting other forms of identity documents” according to the official site. Those documents may include passports or passport cards.
|Veterans ID on Driver’s License or ID Card by State||How to Get a Veterans ID Card|
|Military ID Cards||VA Veterans ID Card|
|Guidelines For Security Clearance Eligibility||How to Get a DD-214 Copy|