My Experience Getting A Real ID & Why You Might Not Need It

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My Experience Getting A Real ID

My Experience Getting A Real ID & Why You Might Not Need It

A star, that is what all this fuss is about.  A star prominently placed on the top of your drivers license. This simple symbol will be what is required to fly domestically in the future.  You can of course use your passport instead of your Real ID if you want, but I hate carrying around anything extra with me while traveling.  And even though the Real ID requirement continues to get punted down the field, recently bumped all the way back to 2023, I decided to do it now.  So what was my experience getting a Real ID like?

What Is A Real ID & Why Might You Want One?

Real ID cards require a more thorough check of an applicant’s identification and incorporate new security features that make them harder to counterfeit. Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel. The new licenses have a star on the upper right-hand corner.

My Experience Getting A Real ID

These are the other suitable options instead of a Real ID:
  • US passport
  • Foreign country passport
  • US Passport card (cost $65 and is a separate application from a US Passport book)
  • Global Entry Card
  • Enhanced drivers license (only available in Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington)
  • Military ID as well as permanent resident cards, border crossing cards, and federally recognized tribal IDs should work as well.
  • Membership cards from other federal Trusted Traveler Programs like NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST also work.

Why Am I Getting A Real ID With All Of These Other Options?

I said above that I don’t want to carry my passport around with me more than I have to and I don’t currently have a Global Entry Card, I know I know, so decided to get a Real ID.  I had made the appointment months ago since there is such a backlog at the Secretary of State.

Then a few weeks ago they announced the extension to 2023 and I considered canceling my appointment since that was the only reason I had made it. I decided to just go ahead with it and get it over with instead though. The fact that the lines at the Secretary of State office should be way more manageable may have played a role.

If my license was expiring in the next year or so I may have just waited but I renewed mine about a year and a half ago.  I am ashamed to say I completely spaced on doing it then and they never even mentioned it as an option, which is pretty bad. So off I went to the Secretary of State. If yours expires before May 3, 2023 then I would personally just wait until renewal time.

My Experience Getting A Real ID

My Experience Getting A Real ID

As I said, I made the appointment a few months back.  I think they are scheduling 3-4 months out for appointments now.  Hopefully that changes as things open back up but if you are interested I would set it up now.

When you go to the appointment you need to bring a few things along with you for the extra verification process:

  • Your Michigan license or state ID card
  • And one of the following:
    • Government-issued birth certificate with raised seal or stamp
    • Valid, unexpired U.S. passport
    • An approved citizenship or legal presence document

I brought my drivers license and passport. I brought my birth certificate too, just in case, but it wasn’t needed.

Upon entering the office I performed an eye test with the person sitting next to the door. After that I waited in line for 10 minutes or so.  Once called to the front I showed the form I filled out once I got there, my ID and passport.  She made some copies and then asked me to take a new picture. Oh, and I had to pay an additional $18 for the privilege of carrying a license with a star on it.  Maybe that is the whole point of this, a way to get some more revenue out of us 🤔😁?  It doesn’t seem like it was much of a process…

She said I should receive the new ID in the mail in a few weeks, but I expect it to be longer.  Nothing seems to be moving quickly with the Secretary of State or the USPS right now.

The entire process took around 15-20 minutes but that was with a lot less people coming into the office.

Final Thoughts

I am glad to have this process done with, even if they continue to push the date back.  All of my subsequent IDs should be Real ID compliant which is good. If you already have Global Entry, a Military ID etc. or don’t mind carrying your passport then you can skip this process altogether. For $18 and a few minutes of my time this seemed to work out the best for me.

Also if you don’t ever fly then you don’t need to worry about this.  The Real ID is only useful for people looking to fly domestically.  If that isn’t you then skip the additional fee and get your normal license. Update: you will also need it for accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants

That is my experience getting a Real ID, pretty easy overall.  Even if I don’t really think it should be a thing I am glad to have it done.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. “Also if you don’t ever fly then you don’t need to worry about this. The Real ID is only useful for people looking to fly domestically. If that isn’t you then skip the additional fee and get your normal license.”

    FYI-You also need the Real ID to enter secure federal facilities, such as military bases, federal courthouses and other federal facilities.

  2. It has been several years since I have flown domestically, and with the international flights I take, I have my passport with me. And I could bring my Global Entry card with me too. So, with no plans to fly domestically in the foreseeable future, I see no point in upgrading my Arizona driver’s license to the Real ID version. I wish my state offered the Enhanced Driver’s License, though, as it could come in very handy to use instead of a passport to cross into Canada. Arizona legislators, are you listening?

    • When I used to go to Canada a lot I should have got that or Nexus but laziness got the better of me haha

  3. PA was ridiculously easy. Did in in December 2019 to coincide with my regular expiration. Long line as it was right after christmas, but in and out in 30 minutes. PA had a check-in person who verified if they had everything they needed for a real ID and sent them to that desk. Was painless and left with real ID in hand.

  4. 15_20 mins tops, if you’re prepared…5 days in the mail… if you can read, comprehend, and follow directions, no problem at all…. California..

  5. 15_20 mins tops in California, another 5 days and it was in the mail…. If you’re not prepared, than yes it’s a process, but if you can read, comprehend, and follow directions, no problem at all….

  6. Consider yourself fortunate. In California this might take the better part of a day and the documentation requirements are much worse. I have 3 real IDs so I don’t plan to waste any time at the DMV. YMMV

  7. Passport, for me, is safer because it’s harder to lose, being bigger.

    And renewing Global Entry can be done, easily, online.

    All this is to say that Real ID seems a waste of effort to me.


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