blog header for everything you need to know about REAL ID in Illinois

Everything You Need to Know About REAL ID in Illinois

In May 2023, when you go to renew your driver’s license at your local Secretary of State, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked if you’d like to register a REAL ID. Here we go over what that means, and whether or not you need the REAL ID.

What is a REAL ID?

The Real ID Act was a law passed by Congress in 2005. It was a recommendation from the 9/11 commission to the federal government, indicating they should, “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” 

This simply means setting federal guidelines for identification cards to make them more secure and difficult to duplicate or forge. While the law has gone through nearly two decades of changes, postponements, and gradual rollouts, all phases of the law go into full effect on May 3, 2023 in Illinois.

Beginning May 3, 2023, every Illinois resident will be required to show a valid federal passport for all air travel — even domestic. The REAL ID itself acts as a driver’s license but doubles as a passport for domestic travel*, as indicated by a star in a gold circle at the top right corner of the card. 

*Note: you will still need a valid passport for international flights. Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards and will also be accepted for official REAL ID purposes.

What Does a REAL ID Mean For Illinois Residents?

For Illinois residents who fly domestically, the federal government will require you to use a valid U.S. passport OR obtain a REAL ID from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The Illinois REAL IDs will have a star in a gold circle at the top right corner, which indicates that it is federally compliant (example below).

Image courtesy of Illinois Secretary of State

Learn more about REAL ID at the Homeland Security website.

What are Your Options?

What does this mean for you? Depending on your current  situation, you may not need a REAL ID in May 2023. Refer to the list below to see whether or not you will need to obtain a REAL ID:


  • You have a valid U.S. passport or passport card; or 
  • You do not use airplanes as a mode of domestic transportation; or 
  • You do not visit military bases; or 
  • You do not visit secure federal facilities 

You DO NEED a REAL ID if: 

  • You do not have a valid U.S. passport or passport card; AND 
  • You use airplanes as a mode of domestic transportation; or 
  • You visit military bases; or 
  • You visit secure federal facilities 

The Illinois REAL ID is essential if you fly domestically and aren’t comfortable taking your passport with you on every single trip.

Documentation Requirements to Obtain a REAL ID

Once you review your options and want to apply for a REAL ID you will need to make sure you have all the documentation requirements. In order to make sure you have all the required documents to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card (DL/ID), the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State has created an interactive checklist.  Find the checklist here

Once you have these documents you are ready to visit a Secretary of State Facility

  • Step 1: Proof of Identity, Date of Birth, and U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Status
  • Step 2: Check Your Name:
    • Name change documents such as certified marriage certificates are required by the federal government if your current name is different than the name that appears on your identity document (such as birth certificate)
  • Step 3: Proof of Your Full Social Security Number (SSN) 
    • You must present one of the following documents that contains your name and full social security number
      • Social Security Card 
      • W-2
      • Pay stub or printed electronic deposit receipt with your name and SSN
      • SSA-1099 Form 
      • Non-SSA- 1099 Form 
  • Step 4: Provide Proof of Residency 
    • You must present TWO documents that contain your residence address. The documents must contain your first and last name and match the residence address that is listed on your DL/ID application. 
  • Step 5: Written Signature 
    • ONE document that contains your signature

How Much Does the REAL ID Cost?

The fee to get a REAL ID is $30, which is the same as a regular driver’s license or ID. 

If you recently renewed your license or if your license does not expire for over one more year, you can apply for a REAL ID and pay a $5 fee. Your REAL ID expiration date will remain the same as your original license.

You can find more information on REAL ID in Illinois at the website of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State or call 833-503-4074.

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