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Real ID requirement finally set to take effect on May 7, 2025

Federal ID document program to launch two decades after legislation mandating it
Real ID requirement finally set to take effect on May 7, 2025

Real ID is about to get real. As of May 2025, adults will no longer be able to use traditional state-issued ID documents for federal purposes, including domestic flights. The program has been nineteen years in the making, birthed from the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, with the intention to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses and identification cards,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Most seasoned travelers will not be bothered by the rule, since passports will still be accepted. Standard driver’s licenses, however, will not. Those who are over 18 but do not have a passport can apply for a Real ID or Enhanced ID at the DMV website. Enhanced IDs will enable U.S. residents to cross land and sea borders from Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean countries without the need for a passport, but do not apply to air travel. Real ID can be used for domestic air travel within the U.S. But to get past the international gates, travelers will still need a valid passport.

Still a year out, change raising alarms for U.S. travelers

The impending deadline has caused a minor media tizzy, with some attempting to prepare travelers for Real ID and others doubting the 2025 implementation will go off without further delays.

As is its wont in regulatory matters, California was the first state to announce a firm deadline. A report from Government Technology says that nearly 17 million Californians already have the Real ID – far short of the state’s population of 40 million. After the TSA sent out a blast release, local markets followed suit across the country, with government and media outlets in Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, Idaho, Connecticut and Maine all putting out heads-up warnings about the May 2025 deadline.

Although the tone varies, in almost every instance, the message is the same: this time, it looks like the perennially delayed Real ID program will actually take root.

Pew Research shows that​​ 71 percent of U.S. adults have traveled internationally at some point. However, state department numbers say less than half of eligible U.S. citizens have valid passports.

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