What’s the best form of identification if you are an immigrant in the United States? Keep reading, because your ability to board an airplane or even to enter a federal building may depend on the identification card that you carry.

If you are an immigrant in the U.S., you need identification that is compliant with the federal government’s “Real ID” standards? What is “Real ID” and what are those standards? Here’s an explanation.

The United States does not issue or require an “official” federal identification card, so state-issued driver’s licenses, by default, are the accepted, official form of identification in the U.S. The states also provide similar, “official” ID cards to individuals who don’t drive.


Before the federal Real ID Act of 2005, every state established its own rules for issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards. The Real ID Act now sets the requirements for driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes.”

“Official purposes,” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, include boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal facilities and nuclear power plants.

The law also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security unlimited discretion to require Real ID-compliant identification for any other purposes.


To fly commercially from January 22, 2018 through September 30, 2020, anyone with state ID that does not comply with the Real ID Act (unless the state has received an extension) must present other ID acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Identification documents accepted by the TSA include valid U.S. passports and military IDs. As of June 2018, however, almost every state has either received an extension or is already issuing ID cards and driver’s licenses that are Real ID-compliant.

And beginning on October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your driver’s license or identification card to be Real ID-compliant if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight, to enter a military base, a nuclear power plant, or most federal facilities.

If you do not apply for a federal compliant Real ID driver’s license or ID card, you will receive a federal non-compliant card with the words “Federal Limits Apply.”

Beginning on October 1, 2020, that non-compliant card cannot be used to board a domestic flight or to visit a military base, nuclear power plant, or certain other federal facilities.


To acquire a Real ID compliant driver’s license or ID card, you must present proof of identity, your Social Security number, and proof of residency to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, if you have never held a green card, and if you do not have a U.S. birth certificate, you’ll need other documents, and you’ll need to act right away. An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can help.

The states have made considerable progress in ID card security since the Real ID Act took effect in 2005. More than 90 percent of U.S. drivers now hold licenses from states that have either satisfied the law’s requirements or have received deadline extensions.

If you’re an immigrant in the U.S., or if you hire immigrants at your U.S.-based business, and if you have questions about Real ID or any immigration-related legal matter, take your questions to an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney, and get the answers you need – right away.