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Will the new REAL ID Impact My Travel to America?

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah in Cross-Border Business and U.S. Immigration

Will the new REAL ID Impact My Travel to America?

The United States' new REAL ID requirements driver's licenses and other photo identification cards go into effect on October 1, 2020, when U.S. travelers will need a "REAL ID-compliant" driver's license, US passport, US military ID or other accepted identification to fly domestically within the United States.

A REAL ID is recognizable by the star in the upper right-hand corner. The REAL ID Act established minimum security standards for the issuing of state licenses and their production, and along with TSA Pre-Check was one of the 11 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission’s travel safety recommendations.

The US Department of Homeland Security requires that REAL ID applicants provide documentation showing their full legal name, their date of birth, their Social Security Number, two proofs of address of principal residence and lawful status. Individual states may impose more requirements.

Most Canadians who drive regularly in the U.S. do not require a U.S. driver's license. The United States and Canada have a reciprocal driver's license agreement, and Canadians are legally allowed to drive in the U.S. using their valid driver's license. There have been several recent incidents where Canadians driving in the U.S. with a valid Canadian license were arrested because they were not carrying their passport or immigration papers.

Depending on which state you are in and how long you plan to stay, you may have to get a state driver's license.

If you are a lawfully present non-U.S. citizen, acceptable documents for domestic United States air travel include:

  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (EAD) issued by DHS; Forms I-766 or Form 1-688B
  • Valid, Unexpired Permanent Resident Card I-551 Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) Issued by DHS or INS
  • Unexpired foreign passport with an unexpired U.S. visa affixed, and an I-94 indicating temporary evidence of permanent residence

According to the Department of Homeland Security, REAL ID-compliant photo IDs for U.S. air travel are:

• REAL ID-compliant state driver's licenses or other state photo identity cards

• US passport

• US passport card

• DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)

• US Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents

• Permanent resident card

• Border crossing card

• State-issued Enhanced Driver's License

• Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID

• HSPD-12 PIV card

• Foreign government-issued passport

• Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card

• Transportation worker identification credential

• US Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)

• US Merchant Mariner Credential

REAL ID cards cannot be used by Americans for border crossings into Canada, Mexico or other international travel, they are for domestic travel only.

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. Contact the airline for questions regarding specific ID requirements for travelers under 18.

Entering the United States is documented in one of two ways - as an Immigrant or as a Non-immigrant. Do you have questions about business or personal travel to the United States? Contact Ackah Law today at (403) 452-9515 Ext. 100 or 1-800-932-1190 or email us directly.


Evelyn Ackah

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

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Everything went well at the border. Spent less time with the immigration officer than I did waiting in the line in my truck – thanks to your excellent application package and prep for me!

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