REAL ID: What you need to know before you fly

Check Your Driver’s License Before You Get Grounded

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 October 1, 2021, 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 October 1, 2021, 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 at

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 October 1, 2021, 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.

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