Two women stand in from of a REAL ID banner and one holds up her new Star ID.

Can I Still Fly in the US Without a STAR ID?

Security requirements have significantly changed over the last few decades to increase the safety of passengers boarding airplanes. While travelers are safer than ever, it can result in longer lines at the security checkpoint. One of the biggest changes affecting many travelers is the STAR ID requirement.

You may not be able to board a plane if you don’t have one of these security-improved forms of identification. So can you still fly in the United States without a STAR ID?

Today, we’re looking closely at the STAR ID and what it could mean for you and your future travels. Let’s get started!

NCDOTcommunications | CC BY 2.0 | Image via Flickr

What Is a STAR ID?

A STAR ID is a direct result of the REAL ID Act of 2005. This act established some minimum security standards by the federal government.

The requirement to have a STAR ID or REAL ID was pushed out due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Effective May 3, 2023, anyone wanting to access Federal buildings, enter nuclear facilities, or board any commercial flights departing in the United States will need one of these special forms of identification.

A STAR ID has enhanced safety features that make it easy for officials to spot fakes and make it incredibly challenging to reproduce illegally. The easiest way to check whether your ID is a STAR ID is to look for a gold circle with a star in the right corner of your license or state ID.

Can I Still Fly in the US Without a STAR ID?

The Department of Homeland Security is counting the days until they begin enforcing the REAL ID requirements. Once May 3, 2023, hits, all travelers must have a REAL ID to board domestic flights in the U.S.

The Real ID Act goes into effect May, 2023.

Until this date, you can fly in the United States without a STAR ID. However, a standard ID won’t do the job once DHS starts enforcing these rules and regulations.

Travelers without a REAL ID can still fly but must show a valid passport to board their flight. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lists all identification requirements on its website.

What Happens If You Don’t Have a REAL ID?

If you don’t have a REAL ID, visit your local DMV to update your license. Most states have been replacing the old-style IDs with the new REAL IDs for several years.

Most people have made the change, whether they realize it or not. However, there’s a chance you may have somehow fallen through the cracks.

If this is your situation, check their website, give them a call, or visit them in person to see what you need to do to update your ID. If you don’t have a REAL ID and have no intentions of flying or entering federal buildings, you don’t have to panic.

Staff at the airport check id's at the checkin counter.

You can still drive and use your non-compliant ID for general purposes. The next time your license expires, you’ll likely receive a REAL ID-compliant license. 

When possible, it’s best to upgrade before the deadline just in case you need to take an unexpected flight. You don’t want to find yourself in a frustrating situation because you didn’t prepare for the change.

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Which Forms of ID Are Accepted to Fly in the US?

The most common way travelers identify themselves when traveling by plane in the U.S. is through their driver’s license or passport. However, TSA shares a long list of acceptable forms of identification.

You must show up at the security checkpoint with the appropriate identification. Failure to do so could seriously delay your travels and make getting through the security checkpoint very challenging.

Save yourself the headache and check the list to ensure you bring a valid form of ID with you.

A person hands over their Colorado state drivers license with a big star in the corner.

What Documents Do I Need to Get a REAL ID?

To secure a REAL ID, you’ll need to visit your local driver’s license branch and present the necessary paperwork. This means having proof of U.S. citizenship, proof of your Social Security number, and two proofs of your current address.

Are All States Issuing REAL ID-Compliant Cards?

Many states and territories in the United States have been issuing REAL ID-compliant cards for years. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s FAQs, as of March 26, 2021, all states and five U.S. territories are issuing REAL ID-compliant cards.

Additionally, all states will be issuing approved IDs before the May 3, 2023, deadline.

What Happens If You Show Up Without a REAL ID?

If you arrive at the airport without a REAL ID-compliant card, you’ll need to provide one of the other acceptable forms of identification. While it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have a REAL ID, it can make your trip through the security checkpoint incredibly easy.

If you’re planning a trip after the deadline and don’t have a REAL ID, take the time to get one. Traveling is stressful enough, and the last thing you want to do is add to an already stressful situation.

Is REAL ID Mandatory in the U.S.?

While REAL ID will make it easier to access federal buildings and air transportation, it’s not mandatory. A standard driver’s license will still allow you to purchase alcohol, drive, and identify yourself to law enforcement.

However, if your license has yet to be updated to a REAL ID, it will likely be the next time it expires. Having your REAL ID in hand allows you one less thing to worry about during your travels.

If you frequently travel by air, make sure you and your ID are compliant before the deadline!

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