Renewing Your Driver's License? It's Time to Get REAL

Renewing Your Driver's License? It's Time to Get REAL

May 09, 2019

If you need to renew your driver's license soon, you may want to "upgrade" it to a REAL ID. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacts the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the federal government set minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards.

A necessity if you're a frequent flier

Beginning October 1, 2021,(extended from October 1, 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis) you'll need to present a REAL ID-compliant state driver's license/identification card to board domestic flights. If your card isn't compliant, you'll need to use an acceptable substitute form of identification, such as your passport.

Getting your REAL ID

Many states now allow you to start the REAL ID application process online. For more information on applying for a REAL ID, visit your state's department of motor vehicles website or

To obtain your REAL ID, you'll need to complete the application process in person at your state's department of motor vehicles (or other approved service center). Some states, including Massachusetts, allow you to apply at a AAA location. Wherever you go, you'll need to bring documentation of your identity and residency, including:

  • Your current driver's license or state identification card;
  • Your current passport or a certified copy of your birth certificate;
  • Proof of your current residency, such as a mortgage statement or utility bill; and
  • Proof of your social security number, such as your original Security Security card or a recent paystub or W-2 form.

If your current name doesn't match the one on your proof of identity document, you must provide documentation of your legal name change (e.g., a marriage certificate).

What happens next?

If you pass the documentation requirements, you'll complete your application by having your picture taken and your signature captured electronically.

When you receive your REAL ID, which will also serve as your new driver's license or state identification card, it will have a gold star in the upper-right-hand corner that indicates that it is federally compliant.

What happens if you don't get a REAL ID?

If you don't get REAL ID by October 1, 2021, you'll need to bring an alternative form of acceptable documentation (most commonly a passport or passport card) when you travel by air domestically. Be aware that even if you have a REAL ID, you'll still need a passport to travel internationally.

What else is a REAL ID good for?

A REAL ID can be used to gain access to federal facilities that require IDs for entrance such as certain federal government offices. Generally, they're not required for places that don't require IDs, such as the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC or national parks.


Chris Gullotti is a financial advisor located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 508.598.1082 or

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.