Federal government pushes back REAL ID deadline. Here’s what it means for Kentuckians

Kentucky residents now have two more years to get their REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or state-issued identification, which will be required for air travel, access to military bases and other restricted areas.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced the news Monday, revealing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is pushing the date back two years to allow Kentuckians and residents of other states more time to obtain their identifications.

That makes the new deadline May 7, 2025, instead of the previous date of May 3, 2023.

REAL IDs are not mandatory, but after the enforcement date they will be required to fly domestically and enter a military base and some federal facilities that require them.

Here’s what to know about the change and how you can get your REAL ID.

What is a REAL ID?

First passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

Its enforcement has been slow-going, however; the new 2025 deadline will mark 20 years since it was passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush.

Once the enforcement date takes effect, every air traveler 18 years old and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, or a federally-compliant form of identification, to pass through airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel, enter military bases or enter federal buildings that require identification.

Currently, 17% of Kentuckians with state-issued driving and identification credentials have a REAL ID, a governor’s news release said Monday. REAL IDs display a star icon in the top right corner of the card.

How do you get a REAL ID in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, residents can choose between a standard or REAL ID-compliant version of their driver’s license, permit or identification card.

If you’re renewing your REAL ID, you can do so online or by mail.

However, if you’re obtaining a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or state-issued ID for the first time, you’ll need to do so in-person. You can do so at one of the regional offices specializing in REAL IDs.

Before heading out, it’s recommended you take the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s REAL ID document quiz for a customized read-out of what documents you’ll need to bring.

Generally speaking, most people will need one way to prove their identity, one way to prove their social security number and two ways to prove residence.

Additionally, if you’ve been married and your surname changed as a result, bring along your marriage certificate documenting the change.

Below is a list of acceptable documents for obtaining a REAL ID in Kentucky. These must be the original documents, not photocopies.

Acceptable proof of identity documents include:

  • Original birth certificate

  • Passport documents

  • Resident/citizenship documents, i.e. a permanent resident card, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship, for example

You can prove your social security number with:

  • Your social security card

  • Other income documents, like your W-2 wage and tax statement or your most recent 1099 form. You can also use a pay stub or statement

Some acceptable proof-of-residency documents include:

  • Lease or rental agreement

  • Mortgage statements

  • Insurance policy

  • Property tax bill

  • Kentucky vehicle registration

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