UPDATED SEPTEMBER 5, 2020: In March of 2020, this deadline was moved back a year to October 1, 2021:
If you are from New York or Connecticut with some travel coming up, you likely know there are two different travel identification options open to you — Enhanced IDs and REAL ID s. Due to the Federal REAL ID Act, that takes effect in New York on October 1, 2021, your regular license will not be accepted alone as proof of identification for domestic flights. After this date, an Enhanced ID or REAL ID will be required to get on a plane, unless you have a valid passport with you.
Depending on what your travel itinerary includes, one of these options could benefit you more than the other. Here are the differences between the two (and why you need one or the other sooner than you might think).
What’s an Enhanced ID?
An Enhanced ID allows you to board a domestic U.S. flight, enter federal buildings and military bases and cross U.S. borders when coming from Canada and Mexico. You can also use an Enhanced ID to re-enter the United States from some Caribbean countries (though not by air travel).
Enhanced IDs are equipped with an RFID chip and a barcode that allow for border patrol officers to securely retrieve your biographic and biometric data as you cross the border into the United States by land or sea. For identification purposes, an Enhanced ID has a U.S. flag on the bottom right corner of the license.
What’s a REAL ID?
REAL ID s can only be used to board domestic U.S. flights and enter federal buildings and military bases. A REAL ID is marked with a star logo in the top-right corner of the identification card. If your license does not currently have this logo, you will have the option to upgrade to a REAL ID or keep your standard driver’s license. Keep in mind, a standard license that does not have a star on it will not be valid to board any flights.
Please keep in mind, if you’re a Connecticut resident you may be ahead of the curve. Connecticut is adhering to the Federal REAL ID Act so these residents will also need to have their REAL ID with them when flying domestically starting October 1, 2021.
REAL IDs vs. Enhanced IDs
The primary difference between REAL IDs and Enhanced IDs is the ability to re-enter the United States when traveling from Canada, Mexico or select Caribbean countries, when using the Enhanced ID.
Additionally, Enhanced IDs are $30 more than REAL ID s and the application for an Enhanced ID does require that you prove your U.S. citizenship and date of birth. Both Enhanced and REAL ID s can be used as driver’s licenses and, as such, if you have not yet passed your driver education requirements, you will have to do so before getting either.
Do I HAVE to get either?
If you, as a New York citizen, want to fly within the United States or cross the border, you are required to have either a REAL ID or an Enhanced ID, effective Oct. 1, 2021. However, if you have a valid passport, you can use it to fly within the United States and cross the border, in lieu of a REAL ID or an Enhanced ID. Additionally, an Enhanced ID or a REAL ID is not necessary to be licensed to vote or drive.
In terms of international travel, to Europe or Asia for example, you will need a passport. A REAL ID or Enhanced ID cannot be used. The REAL ID and Enhanced IDs only work for domestic travel (like how most people use their regular licenses) and return into the U.S. in some cases.
Tips for Getting Your Enhanced or REAL ID
A visit to the DMV office is required to renew or upgrade to an Enhanced ID or REAL ID because a new photo must be taken. When arriving at the DMV office to get your new ID, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles advises that you bring along any proof of changes to your name, as well as federal proof of your middle name, if not all your identification documents list your middle name. Bring documents that prove your state residency and your Social Security card, too. The REAL ID tips page for Connecticut is here.
Don’t have time to get your new ID before your next trip?
If you don’t have time to get to the DMV to get your Enhanced or REAL ID before your next flight, bring your valid U.S. passport with you.
If you’re traveling to the airport and in a crunch for time, Teddy’s can get you there fast. Whether you’re a business traveler, full family or anyone in between, you’ll enjoy professional, private and flexible service from your doorstep straight to the airport.