Your Illinois REAL ID Questions, Answered – NBC Chicago

There’s a big change coming to how your Illinois driver’s license works as an ID — or doesn’t.

Beginning in May 2023, your ordinary driver’s license or state ID will no longer be a valid identification document at US airports, military bases or secure federal facilities such as federal prisons.

In other words, a standard Illinois driver’s license is not enough to get you through security at O’Hare International or Midway Airport on your domestic flight.

Instead, you need a specific type of card called an Illinois REAL ID. A United States passport or passport card would also be acceptable.

Here’s a breakdown of when this change will go into effect, how to get an Illinois REAL ID, and what else you need to know.

What is a REAL ID and why do I need one?

According to the Department of Homeland Services, the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, “sets minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits certain federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that meet these.” standards don’t.”

The law was originally scheduled to go into effect on October 19, 2021. However, due to the COVID pandemic, the deadline has been extended to May 3, 2023. On that date, the law will be passed in all 50 states.

What is the difference between an Illinois driver’s license and a REAL ID card?

To the unaided eye, the difference is indicated by a star and surrounding gold circle in the upper-right corner of a generic-looking Illinois driver’s license.

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For officials, however, a REAL ID means stricter security standards.

How do I know if I should get a REAL ID card?

Residents do not need to obtain REAL ID. However, they can serve as a more convenient form of identification when traveling domestically or visiting a federal facility or US military base.

For example, if you ever travel by plane domestically, you should consider getting a REAL ID card. If you do not have one, starting May 3, 2023, you must use either a current US passport or a passport card at the TSA airport security checkpoint.

When traveling internationally, real ID is not an acceptable form of identification. In this case, you must use a passport.

How do I get a REAL ID?

REAL ID cards are currently being issued at Secretary of State driver’s facilities throughout Illinois upon request. The process must be completed in person.

Those wishing to obtain a REAL-ID must complete a REAL-ID application at one of these facilities and submit five forms proving their identity.

According to the Office of the Secretary of State, here’s what you need:

  1. Either a US birth certificate or a US passport. A work permit document, permanent resident card, or foreign passport with an approved Form I-94 is also acceptable. If you have changed your name, you will need to provide name change documents.
  2. Proof of a full Social Security Number (SSN). Some examples are: an SSN card, a W-2, or a payslip with your full SSN.
  3. Two current residency documents that include your full name. Some examples are: a utility bill, a lease, a deed/title or a bank statement. Account numbers must be visible.
  4. Proof of your signature. Some examples include: a signed credit or debit card, canceled check, or current Illinois (or other state) ID.
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A list of other examples of documents proving identity can be found here. Paper documents are required. Photocopies will not be accepted.

The Secretary of State’s website offers a way to prepare in advance for what you need using an interactive checklist.

How long does it take to get a REAL ID card?

After completing a REAL ID application and submitting the correct documents, you will immediately receive a temporary paper REAL ID.

However, this temporary REAL ID is not an acceptable form of identification at TSA checkpoints. To fly you need a permanent REAL ID or a US passport or passport card.

Depending on the state, a permanent REAL ID will be mailed to you within 15 business days.

How much does a REAL ID card cost?

According to the state, the fee for a REAL ID is the same as a standard Illinois driver’s license or state ID.

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That means the cost of either an Illinois driver’s license or a REAL ID complaint driver’s license is $30. The cost of a state ID or REAL ID compliant state ID is $20.

However, the cost may be lower if you already have current, unexpired versions of both.

My Illinois driver’s license has not expired. Can I just exchange this for a REAL ID card?

If you recently renewed your driver’s license or it doesn’t expire for at least another year, you can apply for a REAL ID card for as little as $5. Your new REAL ID will then keep the same expiry date as your original license.

Residents can also apply for a REAL ID card while renewing a driver’s license at a Secretary of State driver’s facility.

Do I need real ID if I have a valid US passport or passport card?

If you have a valid US passport or passport card, you may not need REAL ID, and residents do not need to get one. However, REAL IDs can serve as a more convenient form of identification when traveling domestically or visiting a federal facility or US military base.

Do you have a question about obtaining an Illinois REAL ID that we haven’t answered here? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll see if we can find the answer for you.


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