Travelers who want to board an airplane will soon need a star on their driver’s license, indicating that it is a REAL ID-compliant credential or they will need another form of approved identification to board their flight or enter a secure federal facility. New Jersey’s REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards have a small star in the upper right corner to indicate that it meets new federal regulations that establish minimum security standards and New York’s REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards have a star inside a black circle, also in the upper right corner. Additionally, New York state enhanced IDs have a flag in the upper right corner and they also are valid for boarding a flight.
“Travelers are not required to get a state-issued REAL ID, however, starting May 2023, if you typically use your driver’s license or non-driver ID to fly within the United States then you probably want a REAL ID,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “Otherwise you will need to use a valid U.S. passport or another federally approved valid form of identification when you walk up to the TSA document checking podium. The consequence of not having a valid ID is that you won’t be permitted to board your flight.”
“REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and identification cards,” Robert Duffy, TSA’s Federal Security Director for LaGuardia Airport said. “The improvements are intended to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.”
The upgraded REAL IDs will be required starting May of 2023, and the one-year count-down has begun.
New Jersey residents have the option to upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or stick with a standard driver’s license when they get a new license from a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office by making an appointment. However, a standard license—without the star—will not be valid to board a flight or to access secure federal facilities, including military bases and some federal offices if it is not REAL-ID compatible.
“REAL ID is available to all eligible applicants in New Jersey who will need one to fly domestically and enter certain federal facilities after next year’s enforcement date,” said New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Sue Fulton. “The best way to get one is when you renew your license or ID. Remember, if you’re getting a REAL ID in New Jersey for the first time, you’ll have to make an appointment for either a renewal or REAL ID and go to one of the state’s 24 Licensing Centers.” She also recommended visiting www.REALID.nj.gov for more information.
Unsure if a REAL ID is right for you? The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has an online tool that will help determine if a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license is what you need.
New Yorkers have three options from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. They can get an enhanced ID, a REAL ID, or a standard ID. The enhanced ID and REAL ID are both compliant with the REAL ID laws, however, the standard driver’s license is not.
The New York Department of Motor Vehicles offers an online tool to help residents determine which ID is right for them. An enhanced ID can be used instead of a passport to return to the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, and some countries in the Caribbean, although it is not acceptable for air travel between these countries. However, an enhanced ID is REAL ID-compliant and is accepted to board a domestic flight.
To get the REAL ID-compliant license, individuals will need to visit a local department of motor vehicles office in person and bring certain documents to prove U.S. citizenship and state residency. Required documents include one proof of identity, one proof of legal presence, two proofs of state residency, one proof of your social security number (if you’ve been issued one), and a current driver’s license if you are applying to exchange one issued by another U.S. state.
Transportation Security Administration officers who staff the ticket document checking station at airports will not allow travelers into the checkpoint without a REAL ID-compliant license or another form of acceptable ID after May 2023, because of the federal law (The REAL ID Act of 2005) that mandates that a REAL ID is needed for federal purposes.
Critically important is that individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.
For more information and details about how to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and for more information on how to obtain a REAL ID-compliant ID in New York, visit the New York Department of Motor Vehicles site.
“Regardless of where you live, all travelers who want to fly domestically after REAL ID enforcement begins will need to have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another valid form of ID when they approach our TSA travel document podium starting one year from now,” said John Bambury, TSA’s Federal Security Director for John F. Kennedy International Airport. “My advice is to go to your local motor vehicle office to get your upgraded REAL ID driver’s license now. Don’t wait.”
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