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What Is Real ID? Everything You Need to Know

what is real id - woman in airport

Every state varies when it comes to REAL ID requirements, so please be sure to reference DHS.gov/realid for state-specific details. The following article provides general information about the REAL ID Act and what to expect.

Beginning on May 7, 2025, a REAL ID (or other form of identification such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card or U.S. military ID) will be required to fly domestically, enter a federal building or visit a military base.

What is REAL ID?

REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 on a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission, is a federal law applicable to all states and all adults 18 and over.

REAL ID is a driver’s license or other form of state-issued identification card that meets the minimum security standards set forth by the federal government. It carries with it all the privileges of a standard license/identification.

A REAL ID will look almost exactly like your standard ID, however, it is marked with a star in the upper corner of the card.

How do I get one?

You can apply for a REAL ID at any time. License/ID holders must apply in person (with required documentation) at an RMV/DMV office.

AAA REAL ID service is available to members in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Those who are renewing their current standard license or ID card can apply for a REAL ID in person (with required documentation) at a local AAA branch. REAL ID services are also available at all downstate New York branch locations in Queens (Whitestone), Brooklyn, Manhattan (Lincoln Center), Garden City, Farmingdale, Smithtown, East Meadow, Yonkers, Yorktown Heights and Nanuet locations.

Your REAL ID card will be mailed to you several weeks after you have successfully applied.

What are the REAL ID requirements?

All customers need documents showing United States citizenship or lawful presence, in addition to other identification documents, as required by federal and state law – even if you already have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card.

Each state has set its own standards as to what documents are accepted, so make sure you check with your state’s RMV/DMV office and have all the proper paperwork ahead of time.  All documents need to be originals – photocopies will not be accepted.

Please note Massachusetts does not accept laminated social security cards or any type of document.

The following categories of documents are all required:

Proof of identity

This can be in the form of a U.S. birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94. If your current name doesn’t match the one that appears on your lawful presence document(s), you must prove your legal name change in order to qualify for a REAL ID driver’s license/ID card. If there are multiple name changes, documentation for each name change must be provided.

Proof of Social Security number

Social Security card, W-2 or pay-stub showing the full 9-digit Social Security number are all acceptable. Your social security number will be verified with the Social Security Administration. Massachusetts does not accept laminated SSN cards, but Rhode Island does.

Proof of residency

You will need to show two documents proving your residency. Examples include a mortgage bill, utility bill, property tax bill, rental or lease agreement or an employment/school document. Massachusetts also accepts medical documents.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island both require that these documents be dated within the previous 60 days.

This list of documents is not inclusive. Documents other than the ones listed above may be accepted as proof of Social Security number and residency. For additional types of documents, visit your state’s RMV/DMV website.

Is REAL ID mandatory?

No, you are not required to own a REAL ID. It is not required to drive any motor vehicle or to vote. It is only required for domestic air travel, to enter federal buildings and military sites that require identification.

In fact, you can still fly domestically and enter federal buildings without it as long as you have another acceptable form of identification, such as a valid passport, permanent resident card or U.S. Department of Defense ID.

AAA Real ID 

AAA encourages everyone who wants a REAL ID not to wait until 2025. Start gathering your documents now and avoid the last-minute rush. You can apply for a new driver license or ID card up to one year before expiration.

Learn more about REAL ID requirements and applications.

AAA members in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York can apply at certain local branch offices. Reserve your spot online ahead of time at AAA.com/Reservations.

Information subject to change without notice. Refer to State Real ID websites for the most up-to-date information.

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90 Thoughts on “What Is Real ID? Everything You Need to Know

  1. You spelt the nys town of Yorktown incorrectly. In the article its spelt yorkstown.

  2. I have obtained my Real ID from NJ where I used to reside. Move to NY , do I need to apply again in NY.?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Imelda, that is a good question! Unfortunately, Real ID can’t be transferred to another state. Each state must review the required documentation to issue a Real ID in that state.

      The good news is Real ID endorsements for a NY Driver’s License or NY Non-Driver ID Card can be processed at select AAA branch locations for AAA members, but you will need to present certain physical documents to prove your identity. Please refer to the New York DMV website for complete information, download the application, and see a list of acceptable documents that must be physically presented during your transaction.

  3. My Wife’s Real ID obtained from AAA does not work when going through TSA. I continued to get stopped and delayed. All TSA locations say it is pinponted to AAA Pictures not being of the highest quality. How do I fix this? Thanks Paul

  4. My license is not up for renewal until 2027, if I apply for a real ID prior to that, will it say duplicate or will they issue a clean new license

    1. Hello Theresa, if you apply for a Real ID you will be issued a new license, not a duplicate. However, your REAL ID will arrive in the mail several weeks after you apply in person. During your appointment, you will receive a temporary paper driver’s license or identification that indicates you applied for a REAL ID-compliant credential.

  5. I am renewing my drivers license in Mass, and Real ID and have a Form SSA-1099 showing social security benefits. Can I assume this will suffice for proof of SSN requirement?

    1. Hello Peter, the MA RMV Identification Documents Checklist lists the SSA-1099 as acceptable proof of Social Security Number for Real ID. Thank you

      1. This is true PROVIDED that the 1099 shows your FULL Social Security number. For better protection against identity theft, many people have their official statements redacted to “***-**-1234”. If this is the case, you will have to see if the reporting agency will issue a duplicate 1099 with the whole number displayed; some will, but it may require a lot of paperwork.

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