In 2005, congress passed a Real ID standard which sets minimum security standards for states issuing licenses. This was done to bolster security after 9/11. This requirement was scheduled to take effect as far back as 2008 and has been pushed several times. The latest push gave a deadline of 2023 for a Real ID standard. However, citing Covid delays, the newest pushback on implementation has been set for May 7, 2025. This means that every traveler must present a compliant form of Real ID for domestic travel on that date.
If you are a frequent international traveler, you most likely will always have your passport when you travel, regardless of your destination. The US passport is considered a Real ID, and for many travelers, this is the standard ID used when traveling. But even with official passports, many travelers find it easier to present their driver’s license as ID when going through security. Once Real ID standards are enforced, this will no longer be allowed if your state driver’s license is not Real ID compliant. The three forms of ID that will be federally compliant for travel are the Real ID, your passport, and your passport card. These IDs will be valid for travel by land, sea, and air, as well as internationally and domestically. However, please note that the passport card is only valid for sea and land and is not accepted by every country.
It is my recommendation that if you plan to travel, even though it is not international travel, to get your passport. An official US passport will get you through airport security and can be used in place of a Real ID. Passports have standard identification information such as passport number, name, birthdate, and birthplace. When presented with a passport, border officials at any destination can access the information they need regardless of language, origin, or destination. When applying for a US passport, there is also an option to get a passport card simultaneously. I highly recommend adding the card during the application process.
The passport card has the same identification information and is easier to carry in your wallet or purse when traveling. I find the card particularly convenient on some cruises as it is much easier to travel with and can be used as an ID when getting on and off the ship during stopovers. However, the passport card does have limitations, as mentioned before. They are only accepted for land and sea crossings between the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In case of an unexpected travel delay from a cruise at a foreign port, the passport card will not be enough for air travel, and you will have difficulties and delays getting back to the US. One never knows when an emergency will arise, and you may need to get off a ship due to illness or an injury.
If you plan to do any travel, please consider getting your passport. It will become invaluable not only for international travel but domestically as well. Additionally, whether your state ID or driver’s license may or may not be Real ID compliant, you can be assured your passport will be.