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REAL ID is a nationwide effort to improve the integrity and security of state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards, which in turn will help fight terrorism and reduce fraud.

The 9/11 Commission recommended that the U.S. improve its system for issuing identification documents, urging the federal government to set standards for the issuance of sources of identification. The REAL ID Act of 2005 was Congress' response to this key recommendation.

REAL ID-compliant licenses and ID cards must meet minimum standards which include

  • information and security features that must be incorporated into each card
  • applicant's proof of identity and lawful status
  • verification of the applicant's source documents
  • security standards for issuance of licenses and identification cards

Why We Need REAL ID

Raising the standards of state-issued identification is an important step toward enhancing national security. Because a driver's license serves so many purposes (access to federal buildings, nuclear power plants, boarding aircraft, etc.), terrorists actively seek fraudulent state-issued identification. The REAL ID rules will make it more difficult for them, while making it easier for law enforcement to detect falsified documents.

REAL ID Current Status

REAL ID went into effect May 11, 2008. Recognizing states need more time to implement REAL ID, the Department has offered states an extension to allow time to meet the requirements; all states received an extension.

If your state has been granted a REAL ID extension, your current driver's license is still a valid form of identification for boarding a federally-regulated airplane, accessing a federal facility or nuclear power plant.

REAL ID Privacy Impact Assessment

A Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), as mandated by the E-Government Act of 2002, ensures that the Department is fully transparent about how intended information technology systems may affect privacy. The REAL ID PIA examines how drivers' and identification holders' personal information will be collected, used, disseminated, and maintained.

REAL ID Myths & Facts

Read a collection of myths and the related facts that correct those common misconceptions on the advent of REAL ID.

This page was last reviewed/modified on January 9, 2009.