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REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions

What is REAL ID?
Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established requirements for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet the requirements.
What are the benefits of having a REAL ID compliant license or ID card?
Holders of licenses and ID cards that meet federal requirements will be able to use their Virginia DMV-issued credentials as identification to access federal buildings, including military installations, and board domestic flights.
Do I have to get a REAL ID compliant license or ID card when I renew my credential?
No, obtaining a REAL ID compliant license or ID card when you renew is voluntary. Current Virginia driver’s license and identification card holders may choose at renewal whether they would like a REAL ID compliant credential or a standard Virginia credential. If a customer chooses not to apply for a REAL ID compliant credential, the customer’s renewal process remains the same as in previous years.
How do I apply for a REAL ID compliant license or ID card?
The process is similar to Virginia’s current driver’s license/ID card application process. All applicants for a REAL ID compliant credential, including current Virginia credential holders, must apply in-person, pay a one-time $10 REAL ID surcharge in addition to standard fees, and provide DMV with physical documentation of:
  • Identity; (e.g. Unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate)
  • Legal Presence; (e.g. Unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate)
  • Social Security Number; and (e.g. Social Security card or W-2 form)
  • Residency (two proofs required). (e.g. utility bills, mortgage statements, Virginia driver’s license displaying current Virginia residential street address)
  • Proof of any name changes (e.g. marriage certificates or divorce decrees) Note: If the name on your identity document is different than your legal name, you must show proof of your name change.
You can find a list of proof documents that Virginia currently accepts on "Obtaining a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card (DMV 141). If you need to obtain a replacement Social Security card, more information is available at Obtaining a Replacement Social Security Card.
What does a REAL ID compliant license/ID card look like?
REAL ID compliant licenses and ID cards look the same as cards issued prior to October 1, 2018, except they have a circle with a star in the top right corner of the credential, while non-compliant licenses and ID cards display “federal limits apply” on the face of the card.
When should I apply for a REAL ID compliant license or ID card?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will not start enforcing REAL ID for domestic air travel until October 2020. For individuals who travel or access federal facilities often, DMV suggests applying for a new REAL ID license or ID card before October 2020.
Is a REAL ID compliant license or ID card necessary to get into every federal facility?
No. REAL ID does not apply to the following:
  • Entering federal facilities such as museums that do not require a person to present identification;
  • Applying for or receiving federal benefits;
  • Accessing health or life preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement, or constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings); and
  • Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations.

It also is not required to vote or register to vote or to be licensed by a state to drive.

Can I use my current driver’s license or ID card to board a domestic flight?
Yes, until October 1, 2020. Your current Virginia credential may be used to board a domestic flight through September 30, 2020. On October 1, 2020, the federal government will require all domestic air travelers to present a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID card or another federally approved form of identification.
If I do not have a REAL ID compliant credential, what can I use to board a domestic air flight after October 1, 2020?
The Transportation Security Administration indicates that it will accept the following identification documents:
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
If I do not have a REAL ID compliant credential, what can I use to enter a federal facility after October 1, 2020?
DHS has not released an approved documents list for entrance into federal facilities. Many federal facilities, such as military bases, may have control over acceptable identification documents for entrance. If you are looking to enter a specific facility, DMV suggests contacting that facility directly.
Does my minor child need a REAL ID compliant credential in order to board a plane after October 1, 2020?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration does not require children under age 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification. Please note that airlines may have individual policies on minor children and require identification.
Can I still get a REAL ID if my driver’s license or ID card doesn’t expire for several years?
Yes! Please visit DMV in person with the required REAL ID documentation and request a replacement credential. You’ll pay the standard replacement card fee plus a $10 one-time surcharge for REAL ID.
If your driver’s license or ID card expires before October 2020, you may want to wait until it’s time to renew to upgrade to a REAL ID. You’ll avoid the replacement card fee and you can use your current credential to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility until October 1, 2020.
Can I renew online and still get a REAL ID compliant credential?
No. Federal law requires that your first application for a REAL ID compliant credential be made in person. After you’ve received your first REAL ID compliant credential, you may renew online according to the standard schedule.
If you don’t want a REAL ID compliant credential, you may renew online if you are eligible.
What do I do if I can’t find my birth certificate or marriage certificate?
If you were born or married in Virginia, you can request a certified copy of these documents at any of DMV’s 75 customer service centers or mobile offices. Please see Vital Records at DMV for more information.
If you were born, married or divorced in another state, you can request a certified copy of these documents from the state in which they were issued.
DMV also accepts valid U.S. passports or passport cards and some other documents as proof of identity and legal presence. You can find a list of proof documents that Virginia currently accepts on "Obtaining a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card (DMV 141).
What do I do if the name or other information on my birth certificate does not match the information on my driver’s license or ID card?
Many people change their names due to marriage, adoption, divorce or other reasons. In order to obtain a REAL ID compliant credential, you must provide proof documents that show a direct link between your name changes. Those documents include a marriage certificate, divorce decree or a court order granting the name change. Multiple documents may be necessary if your name has changed more than once.
For example, if your birth certificate displays your maiden name but your driver’s license displays your married name, you’ll need to bring a certified copy of your marriage certificate to link the documents. If you’ve lost your birth or marriage certificate from Virginia, you can obtain a certified replacement copy at DMV. However, if you have a U.S. passport or passport card that matches your current legal name and all of your other proof documents, you can use that document as proof of identity and legal presence, rather than a birth certificate.
How do you secure my scanned documents?
The federal REAL ID Act requires states to maintain copies of all customer proof documents presented as part of a REAL ID application. The security of customer documentation and records is of the utmost importance to DMV and the agency follows the highest security standards. As such, REAL ID documents are scanned and securely stored in an encrypted format and DMV access to those records is heavily restricted.
For your privacy, customers may redact or black out information that does not pertain to the REAL ID transaction, such as financial information on a bank statement or W-2 form.
Is the non-compliant driver’s license and ID card less secure than the REAL ID compliant credential?
Both are secure. Virginia completely overhauled its driver’s licenses and IDs in 2009 to include the security features present in your current credential. The only physical difference between compliant and non-compliant cards is the marking in the top right corner of the credential. To meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act, compliant cards display a circle with a small star while non-compliant cards display “Federal Limits Apply.” Starting October 1, 2020, these markers will be used to indicate whether you can use your ID as identification necessary to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility. If you don’t have a compliant card, you can use another federally approved form of ID; please see above for a complete list.
What does this really mean for citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia?
Bottom line: Everything remains the same until October 1, 2020. Until then, Virginians can continue to use their current Virginia issued credentials to board domestic air flights and enter federal facilities. Beginning October 1, 2020, DHS will require everyone using a state-issued driver’s license or ID card for identification to board a domestic flight or enter a federal facility to have a REAL ID compliant credential, which Virginia began issuing on October 1, 2018.