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Obtain Texas REAL ID

Starting October 1st, 2020, you must have a Texas REAL ID to board domestic flights or enter certain federal facilities and military bases. These cards meet the federal identification standards set by the REAL ID Act of 2005. Overall, this act was established to help standardize the requirements for obtaining state-issued IDs, making these credentials suitable for federal purposes. As such, standard drivers licenses and IDs issued before October 10, 2016 will not be accepted for the aforementioned purposes. Alternatively, credentials issued after October 10, 2016 are REAL ID compliant and can be used as federally-compliant documents.

If you plan on flying domestically and do not hold a valid passport, you should get a REAL ID in TX sooner rather than later. By getting your documentation now, you can avoid the influx of applications and delays around the October 2020 deadline. Additionally, carrying a compliant license means that you do not have to carry additional documentation, such as a passport, when traveling domestically. The sections below describe who needs a REAL ID in Texas, what the requirements to get one are and how to apply.

Do you need to get a REAL ID in Texas?

Whether or not you need a TX REAL ID depends on your intended plans and circumstances. For instance, if you plan or need to do any of the following, you may benefit from getting a REAL ID:

  • Board a domestic flight
  • Enter a federal facility
  • Enter a nuclear power plant
  • Enter a military base

Without a REAL ID card in Texas, you must carry and present additional documentation such as a U.S. passport. If you do not plan on traveling out of the country, getting a passport may be unnecessary. In many ways, a federally-approved license or ID card is the most convenient document you can carry.

On the other hand, it is important to note that you will not need a REAL ID compliant license to do things like registering to vote, entering federal courts or applying for federal benefits. If you did not have to provide identification to enter a federal building in the past, you will not need to do so now with a REAL ID. Moreover, if you do not plan on flying domestically or entering federal facilities in the near future, you may only need a state ID rather than one suited for federal purposes.

Texas REAL ID Requirements

To apply for a REAL ID in Texas, you have to prove that you are a citizen or legal resident in the United States. Additionally, you must prove that you have a Social Security Number (SSN) and legally reside in the TX. To do this, gather the following REAL ID documents:

  • One proof of citizenship or legal status
    • A U.S. birth certificate
    • A valid U.S. passport
    • A valid permanent resident card
    • A current employment authorization document
    • A certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship
    • A U.S. certificate or consular report of birth abroad
  • One proof of SSN
    • A W-2 from the past year
    • A 1099 from the past year
    • A Social Security card
    • A pay stub with your SSN
  • Two proofs of Texas residence
    • A home utility bill dated within the past four months
    • A current Texas vehicle registration or title
    • An IRS tax return from the past year
    • A rental contract or mortgage contract
    • A current health, life, home or auto insurance policy
    • A current Texas voter registration card

Along with the REAL ID documents listed above, you must provide name change documents if your legal name does not match the name on all your other documents. Acceptable proofs of a change of name include a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court-ordered name change. You may need to provide multiple documents to prove your name change sufficiently. Thus, plan on bringing all related documents in order to apply for a REAL ID.

When to Get a REAL ID in Texas

REAL ID cards in Texas started being issued with the required gold star on October 10, 2016. As such, applicants who have applied for a drivers license and provided the appropriate documents may already have the appropriate license.

If you do not currently have a federally-approved license, you can begin applying for a TX REAL ID at any time. Overall, you are encouraged to get a certified license or ID card before the October 2020 deadline. For instance, you may apply for a REAL ID before your current drivers license or ID expires. If your license lasts through the 2020 deadline, you should visit a Department of Public Safety (DPS) center and apply for a new REAL ID card before it expires.

How to Apply for a REAL ID in Texas

You must apply to get a REAL ID in person if the TX DMV does not already have the necessary documents on your record. To apply for a REAL ID in Texas, you should bring the following documents to a DPS branch:

  • One proof of citizenship or legal status in the U.S.
  • One proof of your SSN
  • Two proofs of your residency in Texas
  • Payment for the necessary DPS fees

If you have held a state driver’s license or ID card before, you only need to provide supplementary documents during your REAL ID application. However, if you have never held a state-issued license before, you should provide all the required documents during your application procedure. This includes a completed drivers license or ID card application form, as well as having your photo taken and thumbprint scanned.

Once you submit your Texas REAL ID application, you will typically get a temporary receipt from the DPS. You may use this temporary credential as your license or ID card until you receive your permanent card in the mail. Typically, it takes between two and three weeks for your permanent REAL ID card to arrive via mail.