Do you have a gold star on the upper right of your driver's license? If not, you are not federally compliant.  You don't have a REAL ID.

Covid-19 delayed the start of the REAL ID federal program. It was slated to begin on October 1, 2020, but just like college loans, that date has been pushed back again and again, due to the pandemic.

What You Need to Know

Is it required by law to obtain a REAL ID?

No. It is not required, but rather an option for New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.

Then why would we want it?

The REAL ID Act was established by Congress 2005, following the 2001 9/11 attacks.

As stated on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security site, "The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits certain federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver's licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act's minimum standards.  The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing certain federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft."

jeshoots via
jeshoots via

So, there you have it.  Most of us fall under the third purpose of the REAL ID Act, boarding commercial aircraft, but it also allows access to a military base, courthouse, or other secure federal buildings.

Think of it as a way for the federal government to keep track of its citizens in an easier registry.

You may be thinking that this is more of "big brother" intervention, and that may be true, but it does keep us safer.

Why Kei via
Why Kei via

According to, here's a photo of what a REAL ID looks like.  It has a larger star at the top, which allows you to be federally identified.  This also allows you to fly on a domestic commercial airplane without further ID.

If you don't have a star inside the state outline, like Maine, or on the top right, like New Hampshire and Massachusetts, then you have a license that cannot be used for federal identification, and it says "NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION" on your new license.

suhyeon choi via
suhyeon choi via

Now, you have until May 2025 to renew and decide. That date was recently pushed back from May 2023 again, due to Covid delays.  The fees are $50 for Massachusetts and $55 for Maine. For New Hampshire, it costs $50 for a regular ID and $60 for a REAL ID.

If you don't have a REAL ID by May 2025, then you'll need a passport to access federal buildings and fly domestically.  The choice is yours.  Check your state's website for more information at,, or

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