What the REAL ID Act Is and How It May Affect You

In 2005, the REAL ID Act was passed by the 9/11 Commission to set national standards for issuing identification documents, such as I.D. cards and driver’s licenses. This Act requires that all state-issued identification documents comply with these standards, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting any identification that does not meet these standards. Some of the instances where a citizen might need valid forms of ID include being called for jury duty, crossing the border, visiting a military base, or boarding a commercial aircraft.

Currently, states that have not enacted the REAL ID-compliant document process can issue Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs). These cards contain a RFID chip and a barcode for scanning and can be issued by states that were given an extension on putting REAL ID Act steps in motion. These EDLs are accepted in the place of documents that meet the REAL ID Act standards.

How does this law affect me?

  • Starting January 22, 2018, passengers flying within the United States will be required to have:  
  • By October 1, 2020, ALL airline passengers will need a REAL ID-compliant identification card or driver’s license in order to board.
  • You must be a legal resident of a REAL ID-compliant state in order to obtain the appropriate identification document for that state.
  • Individuals who are not currently U.S citizens or U.S. residents will still be able to obtain/renew their driver’s licenses, but they will not be able to get a REAL ID-compliant card. This will prohibit travel by air.
    • These I.D.s will have different colors and markings on them, identifying the holder as being noncompliant with the REAL ID Act and not a US Citizen or legal resident.

How can this affect victims of identity theft?

With the implementation of this Act, it is more important than ever to keep your personal information safe and secure.

  • Report all lost and stolen driver’s licenses to your local police department and DMV as soon as you realize they are missing.
  • Keep personal identifying documents like birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, green cards, and immigration documents in a lock box or safety deposit box.
  • Avoid sharing pictures/photocopies of your state ID or driver’s license with anyone other than prospective employers, bank tellers/financial advisors, and law enforcement.

Once fully enacted across the country, a REAL ID driver’s license will be seen as “more valid” by law enforcement than a regular driver’s license. If a thief has obtained someone’s REAL ID-compliant state ID, it can be hard for that victim of identity theft to verify their own identity when traveling, moving to a new state, getting a job, or conducting business with a financial institution or government agency.

If your own state is not REAL ID-compliant, make sure you have obtained a US passport and that you keep it current. A US passport will serve as your REAL ID for the purposes of travel and identify who you are to officials in other states.

Just like your Social Security card, do not keep your passport on you as it can easily be lost or stolen, and won’t be required for day-to-day activities. Only take it out when necessary, such as traveling, opening an account, seeking employment, or another sporadic event.

Not all states are currently compliant with the REAL ID Act.  To see if your state has already begun the REAL ID process, you can check the compliance status of your state online.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

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