Countdown begins: One year from now you'll need REAL ID to travel in U.S

The countdown has officially begun. 

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, all Michigan residents will need a REAL-ID compliant document to be allowed to fly within the United States. 

You'll know if you have a REAL-ID compliant document if you see the gold circle with a star inside. Both the standard driver's licenses and state ID cards can be upgraded to become REAL-ID compliant. 


REAL ID is an upgraded security standard meant for people accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State, these new federal standards were drafted in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005. 

The REAL ID law sets document and security protocols for the production of driver's licenses and ID cards, including the use of features to prevent illegal copying or altering. 

Michigan began offering REAL ID in 2017. All states must be issuing REAL-ID compliant licenses or state IDs by the enforcement deadline date, Oct. 1, 2020. 


You can upgrade to REAL ID at your normal license renewal time for free at any Secretary of State office. If you're doing your REAL ID upgrade outside of your four-year renewal cycle, you'll pay a $9 duplicate card fee. 

If you want to upgrade your standard license to an enhanced license - which, yes, is REAL ID-compliant (more on that below) - you'll pay an additional fee for that. 

For any of those options, you need to bring your current driver's license or ID card and one of the following two things: a U.S. passport or a certified birth certificate. A certified birth certificate means it has a raised seal or stamp on it and was issued by an official government agency. It can't be the one from the hospital. 

Also, if your current name doesn't match what's on your birth certificate you need to bring your marriage license or court orders for every time your name has changed. 

New this summer, the SOS has expanded the option to make an appointment at all branches in the state. Previously it was only in about a third of the locations. 

It's recommended you make an appointment online. If you make an appointment - you're guaranteed to be in and out in less than 30 minutes. 


If you've got an enhanced ID, you're good to go. 

As Mich. SOS communications director Shawn Starkey explains to us, there are now three levels of state licenses and IDs - and enhanced is at the top. 

The lowest level is your standard license or ID, and the middle level is those that are REAL ID compliant. 

"The enhanced driver's license does everything that the REAL ID-compliant one does, but it also offers you the opportunity to cross back into the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean," he says. 

You can hear more from him about enhanced licenses and REAL ID documents in the video player below. 


Michigan driver's licenses and ID cards do not become void after the deadline. You just won't be able to board a plane or enter certain federal facilities with it. You'll still be able to cash checks, rent vehicles, purchase alcohol and tobacco, or enter casinos. 

A standard license or ID card will have "Not for Federal Identification" printed on it.

And if you do need to fly or enter certain federal facilities without a REAL-ID compliant document, you're not completely out of luck. You'll have to show another form of acceptable documentation, such as a passport. 

But if you don't have a passport or another form of acceptable documentation, you'll be turned away from the TSA security checkpoint or the federal area. 


The TSA does not require children 18 and under to provide identification when traveling with a companion in the U.S., so as long as the companion has a REAL-ID compliant document everyone will be able to board the plane. 

You can get more information on REAL IDs from Homeland Security here

Fox 2 reported on this story from Southfield, Mich.