The Department of Homeland Security strung us along on the deadline for obtaining a REAL ID—a U.S. state driver’s license or identification that meets REAL ID Act security standards required for air travel—but the final deadline is now just under a year away. If you haven’t already obtained yours, you must do so by May 7, 2025.

The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 in response to a 9/11 Commission recommendation to standardize identification issuance. Initially, states were expected to comply by 2008, but after multiple extensions, travelers ages 18 and older were told to obtain this enhanced form of identification by October 1, 2020. The deadline was then pushed back to May 3, 2023 and later postponed again during COVID to 2025.

Many states have been issuing REAL IDs for several years, and you can check to see if you already have one—thanks to a renewal or upgrade in recent years—by locating a gold or black star in the corner of your state-issued driver’s license or identification card.

If you don’t, and you want to use your license to clear airport security or enter certain federal buildings, you should start the process now.

How (and why) to get a REAL ID now

If you don’t have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card after May 7, 2025, you won’t be able to get on a plane with your standard state-issued license or ID card (though TSA will still accept a handful of other documents, such as a passport or DHS trusted traveler card, for security purposes).

While May 2025 may seem like a ways away, it’s worth upgrading your current ID sooner than later, as it may take time to collect the necessary documentation and get an appointment at your driver’s license division, especially if you wait until the last minute.

You can use this map from the Department of Homeland Security to link directly to your state’s requirements for obtaining a REAL ID. In most cases, you’ll need proof of your full legal name, date of birth, social security number, two documents with your address, and lawful residency status. You will also need a new photo, so while you may be able to start the REAL ID application online, you will need to complete the process in person. And, of course, in most cases you’ll pay a fee.

Note that a REAL ID is not required for other purposes, such as driving or voting.