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REAL ID: What you need to know before you fly

Deadline Extended to May 2023. Here’s What You Need to Know

You’ve been hearing about REAL ID for years, but Washington state and Idaho residents need to pay attention now if air travel is in your future.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act back in 2005 to create basic security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The enforcement deadline was extended several times but, starting May 3, 2023 adult travelers will need REAL ID-compliant identification to board a domestic flight.

Do I need a REAL ID?

U.S. passports and passport cards are examples of compliant forms of identification you may already have and can use for flying on domestic or international flights. But if you want to use a driver’s license for domestic travel after May 3, 2023, you’ll need an enhanced version.

Do I have a REAL ID driver’s license? How Can I tell?

Washington state’s REAL ID-compliant driver’s license is called the Enhanced Driver License, or EDL, and says “Enhanced Driver License” at the top. Idaho’s version is called the Star Card, marked with a star in the top right corner.

How can I get a REAL ID in Washington state or Idaho?

To get the new license in either state you’ll need to visit a driver licensing office with documents to verify your identity, your Social Security number and your state residency. Washington state also requires proof of U.S. citizenship.

For more information about the requirements, paperwork and fees, visit the Transportation Security Administration online at, Washington state’s REAL ID website at or Idaho’s Star Card webpage.

The bottom line: If you have a U.S. passport or another REAL ID-compliant identification, you can skip the enhanced driver license. But if you’d rather leave your passport home when you fly domestically, get an enhanced driver’s license — and don’t wait, because lines will get long as the deadline approaches.

And if you show up for a domestic flight after May 3, 2023, without a compliant form of identification, you may be grounded.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey. It was updated with a new deadline in April 2021.

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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