REAL ID star

A REAL ID-compliant Virginia driver’s license has a star in the top right corner.

If your Virginia driver’s license doesn’t have a star symbol in its upper right corner, you won’t be able to use that license to board a domestic airplane flight in less than a year.

The star signifies that the license is REAL ID-compliant, meaning it meets new security standards required for boarding domestic flights and for entering some federal facilities such as military bases as of Oct. 1, 2020.

Congress passed a law in 2005 requiring that states move toward issuing driver’s licenses with added security as a way to prevent terrorists from using fraudulent identification in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

If your driver’s license doesn’t have a star in the upper right corner or says “Federal Limits Apply,” then it is not REAL ID-compliant.

As of this past Monday, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles had issued 707,771 REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses.

That’s out of about 2.6 million Virginia residents that the state agency estimates will go to their local DMV office to get a REAL ID license before the requirements go into effect next October.

The possibility of a last-minute rush to obtain the new licenses has concerned DMV officials since the agency started issuing them in 2018.

“Our message to Virginians has been consistent and simple: Don’t wait until the last minute,” said Matthew Butner, a spokesman for the Virginia DMV. “Decide if you want a REAL ID, find the time to come see us well before Oct. 1, 2020, and come prepared.”

The federal Transportation Security Administration also is reminding travelers.

TSA has posted signs at airports nationwide to remind people that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID will be mandatory for air travel beginning next October. TSA officers also are reminding passengers verbally as they go through the security lines at airports.

Being prepared means bringing the required documents. To get a REAL ID-compliant license, Virginia residents must go to their DMV office with the following:

  • A birth certificate or a valid passport to prove identity and legal presence.
  • A Social Security card, or a tax form such as a W-2 that lists the full Social Security number of the person seeking the REAL ID.
  • A current Virginia driver’s license. This serves as one proof of Virginia residency.
  • A second proof of Virginia residency including a utility bill, a mortgage statement, deed, lease agreement, bank statement or other mail addressed to the individual seeking to get the REAL ID.

If the person applying for the REAL ID does not have a Virginia driver’s license, that person will need to bring two pieces of mail addressed to them, or one piece of mail and a postal change of address form.

If a person has had a name change that results in any of the names on the documents being different, they need to bring a document that establishes the name change such as a marriage certificate, divorce certificate or court order.

There is a one-time, $10 REAL ID surcharge in addition to standard fees to get the new license.

Not everyone needs to get a REAL ID-compliant license.

If you don’t plan to use your driver’s license to board a flight or you don’t need to enter secure federal facilities, then the current license remains valid for other uses such as driving, voting and age verification.

Travelers also can use a few other alternative forms of identification — a passport, a U.S. military ID, or a trusted traveler card such as Global Entry — to pass through Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints.

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