By Erin Kirkland
For Senior Voice 

Real ID: What you need to know

New designated Real ID cards became available January 2019


April 1, 2019

As if the logistics of travel weren’t murky enough, the Dept. of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Real ID program will be enforced in Alaska beginning Oct. 1, 2020. On that date, Alaska residents will need to present a Real ID-compliant license or ID, or other accepted form of identification in order to access any federal facility, including boarding commercial aircraft.

The DHS announced on Dec. 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act as passed by Congress, that will implement the Act “in a measured, fair, and responsible way.” States could work toward becoming compliant right away (37 did), or ask for an extension. Alaska chose the latter. (Find a complete list of current compliance or extension on the DHS website: )

Supposedly, all one must do is visit their local Dept. of Motor Vehicles and secure a new, compliant Real ID license or card, pay the fee, and head into the sunset, secure in the knowledge of compliance. But confusion is rampant, if the blank looks from people I queried were any indication. To hopefully help, I’ve unpacked the answers, below, courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of State.

What is Real ID, anyway?

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established requirements for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification (ID) cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and ID cards from states that do not meet the requirements.

Do I have to get a Real ID?

REAL ID is voluntary. Alaskans will have a choice between carrying a standard (what we have now) or Real ID compliant license or ID (starting Jan. 2, 2019, though, to meet federal regulations, all Alaska Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) were offered as a REAL ID compliant credential.)

Note: Remember, though, if you choose not to obtain a Real ID card, you must show an accepted alternate form of federal ID (find that list on the TSA website at )

Why should I get one?

Holders of compliant Alaska licenses and ID cards will be able to use them as identification to access federal buildings, including military installations, and board commercial, domestic flights* without additional documentation. After September 2020, old style cards and standard cards marked “federal limits apply” will not be accepted for entrance to federal facilities/bases or commercial flights. So it behooves frequent travelers to secure a Real ID card now.

*A U.S. passport book is required for international air travel.

How do I get a Real ID card?

The process is similar to Alaska’s current driver’s license/ID card application process, but with added requirements. All applicants for a compliant card, including current Alaska card holders, must apply in-person and provide the DMV with documentation, even if it was previously submitted for the previous identification:

Proof of identity

Proof of U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, or other lawful status

Proof of Social Security Number

Proof of name change (if applicable)

2 documents verifying Alaska residency

You can find a list of source documents that Alaska currently accepts for Real ID cards on the DMV website:

(Your current drivers license/ID card alone will not suffice as documentation)

Will the Real ID cards look different from the ID I have now?

Yes. Alaska’s cards have been completely redesigned to offer a more modern and secure credential. Both standard and Real ID cards will have the same design but will contain different markings (marked with the Real ID star on the top right corner.)  Standard cards will not have the star and will be marked “Federal limits apply.” Here’s one good thing about the Real ID program, however: the duration of all five-year card types will increase to eight years.

How much will a Real ID card cost?

Regular card fees, plus a $20 REAL ID Fee. For example:

Driver’s license fee ($20) + REAL ID fee ($20) = $40 for a REAL ID license

Identification card fee ($15) + REAL ID fee ($20) = $35 for a REAL ID Identification card

CDL fee ($100) + REAL ID fee ($20) = $120 for a REAL ID CDL

Senior ID ($0) + REAL ID fee ($20) = $20 for a senior REAL ID

Remember, card validity is increasing to eight years.

Isn’t this just a way for the federal government to create a national database on its residents?

According to the State of Alaska, no. Real ID does not create a federal database of driver’s license information and does not create national identification cards, just a national standard states must follow. Each state continues to issue its own unique license, maintains its own records, and controls who gets access to those records and under what circumstances. The purpose of Real ID, says the State Department, is to make identity documents more consistent and secure. Also, there is not a chip in the card.

You can receive email or text message updates regarding any changes to the Real ID program by signing up on the Alaska Dept. of Administration website:

Erin Kirkland is an Anchorage-based freelance travel journalist.


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