With the clock ticking for millions of travellers to update their driver's license to make them REAL ID-compliant, the government is hoping to speed up the application process.

Mother and daughter at laptop
The US Department of Homeland Security is hoping to automate part of the REAL ID application process ©Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

After nearly 15 years, the deadline to get a REAL ID driver's license is finally approaching; travellers without one will have to use their passports to board any commercial flight, even domestic ones, by the 1 October 2020 deadline. If you don't have one yet, you're not the only one. A survey released last month by the US Travel Association found that some 99 million Americans don't have the Real ID-compliant identification.

To show you just how much that could affect your travel plans, the US Travel Association explained: "if Real ID went into effect tomorrow, almost 80,000 people trying to board a plane would be denied on Day 1."

TSA agent checks identification card
Fliers won't be able to board a plane without a REAL ID-compliant identification card by 1 October 2020 ©Getty Images

With millions of cards to be issued before the deadline, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is hoping to speed up the process by allowing travellers to perform parts of the application online. As of now, it's seeking to implement technologies that could help automate the process in a bid minimise any travel disruptions or confusion that may occur due to backlogs. 

According to a new request for information published in the Federal Record, DHS is "interested in concepts that reduce application burden, processing time, and administrative workload, and that effectively ensure security, protect privacy, and manage risk of fraud," the request reads. "We are also interested in concepts that identify the extent to which the additional capabilities or technologies will increase the adoption rate of individuals obtaining REAL ID-compliant identification." 

TSA agent at PreCheck
Is your ID approved for travel? ©Getty Images

Until that technology is approved though you will need to make an appointment to visit your local DMV office to update your license. You can tell quickly if your license is REAL ID-compliant if it is marked by a star on the top right-hand corner of the card. If you're unsure, visit tsa.gov/real-id for more information.

Explore related stories


The best places to visit in January 2024

Nov 17, 2023 • 5 min read