Your Illinois REAL ID Questions Answered – NBC Chicago

A big change is coming to how your Illinois driver’s license works — or doesn’t — as a form of identification.

Starting in May 2023, the regular driver’s license or ID card you have will no longer be valid identification at US airports, military bases or secure federal facilities, such as federal prisons.

In other words: a standard Illinois driver’s license will not suffice to pass through security at O’Hare or Midway International Airport for your domestic flight.

Instead, you will need a certain type of card called an Illinois REAL ID. A US passport or passport card would also be acceptable.

Here’s a breakdown of when this change takes effect, how to get an Illinois REAL ID, and what else you need to know.

What is a REAL ID and why might I need one?

According to the Department of Homeland Services, the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, “establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits certain federal agencies from accept for official purposes licenses and state IDs from states that do not meet these standards.”

The law was originally scheduled to go into effect on October 19, 2021. However, due to the COVID pandemic, the deadline has been extended to May 3, 2023. On that date, the law will be passed in all 50 states.

What is the difference between an Illinois driver’s license and a REAL ID?

To the naked eye, the difference is indicated by a star and surrounding gold circle in the upper right corner of a regular Illinois driver’s license.

However, for managers, a REAL ID indicates higher security standards.

How do I know if I need to get a REAL ID?

Residents are not required to obtain a REAL ID. However, they may serve as a more convenient form of identification when traveling domestically or visiting a federal installation or US military base.

For example, if you ever fly domestically, you might want to consider getting a REAL ID. If you don’t have one, beginning May 3, 2023, you’ll need to use a valid US passport or passport card at the airport’s TSA security checkpoint.

If you are traveling internationally, a REAL ID will not be an acceptable form of identification. In this case, you must use a passport.

How can I get a REAL ID?

REAL IDs are currently issued at Illinois Secretary of State Drivers facilities via an app. The process must be completed in person.

Those wishing to obtain a REAL ID must complete a REAL ID application at one of these facilities and provide five forms of documentation proving their identity.

According to the Office of the Secretary of State, here is exactly what you need:

  1. Either a US birth certificate or a US passport. A work authorization document, permanent resident card, or foreign passport with an approved Form I-94 is also acceptable. If you have changed your name, you will need to provide name change documents.
  2. Proof of a full Social Security Number (SSN). Some examples: an SSN card, a W-2 or a pay stub with your full SSN.
  3. Two current residency documents showing your full name. Some examples are a utility bill, rental agreement, deed/title, or bank statement. Account numbers must be visible.
  4. Proof of your signature. Some examples are: a signed credit or debit card, void check, or current Illinois (or out-of-state) ID.

A list of other examples of documents proving identity is detailed here. Paper documents are required. Photocopies will not be accepted.

The Secretary of State’s website offers a way to prepare for what you need in advance through the use of an interactive checklist.

How long does it take to get a REAL ID?

After completing a REAL ID application and providing the appropriate documents, you will immediately receive a temporary paper REAL ID.

However, this temporary REAL ID will not be an acceptable form of identification if you are at TSA checkpoints. To fly, you will need a permanent REAL ID, US Passport, or Passport Card.

A permanent REAL ID card will be mailed to you within 15 business days, depending on the state.

How much does a REAL ID cost?

Depending on the state, the fee for a REAL ID is the same as a standard Illinois driver’s license or ID card.

This means that the cost of an Illinois driver’s license or driver’s license with REAL ID complaint is $30. The cost for a State ID or REAL ID Compliant State ID is $20.

However, the cost may be lower if you already have current, unexpired versions of either.

My Illinois driver’s license has not expired. Can I just trade that in for a REAL ID?

If you recently renewed your driver’s license or if it won’t expire for at least a year, you can apply for a REAL ID for just $5. Your new REAL ID would then retain the same expiration date as your original license.

Residents can also apply for a REAL ID when renewing a driver’s license at a Secretary of State facility.

Do I need a REAL ID if I have a valid US passport or passport card?

If you have a valid US passport or passport card, you may not need a REAL ID and residents are not required to obtain one. However, REAL IDs can serve as a more convenient form of identification when traveling domestically or visiting a federal installation or US military base.

Do you have a question about getting an Illinois REAL ID that we haven’t answered here? Email us at, and we’ll see if we can find the answer for you.

NBC Chicago

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button