How to get your REAL ID: Documents to Bring and Tips

how do i get real id

If you haven’t already upgraded to a REAL ID in Virginia, you have less than a year before you will need it in order to board an airline flight, and enter federal facilities, such as military bases without another ID like a passport. The change starts May 7, 2025.

If you wondering what documents you need to bring to get your REAL ID, what a REAL ID costs and how long it will take – you have come to the right spot.

I when I got mine I double checked (OK, quadruple checked) what I needed before I went, in order to get my new ID in one trip. That was not the case for the person in line in front of me, so double check before you head out.

What is a REAL ID anyway?
The new REAL ID is actually part of the Federal REAL ID Act passed by Congress in 2005 spurred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The law requires the new enhanced driver’s licenses and IDs have to meet specific security standards.

What can’t I do after May 7, 2025 if I stick with my regular drivers license?

Well if you use your drivers license when you fly domestic, after May 7, 2025 you will need a REAL ID instead to board a domestic commercial airline, and you will need the REAL ID to be allowed in federal facilities, access military bases, or visit a nuclear power plant. Now you can fly domestic with a valid US Passport or other documents listed below but you will not be able to use a non-REAL ID drivers license for US domestic travel after May 7, 2025.

Do I have to go in person to get a REAL ID?
Yes. You do have to go in person to get the REAL ID.

documents for REAL ID

What documents do you need to get a REAL ID?
You will need the following documents to get your REAL ID:

  • Proof of Identity / Legal Status – VALID U.S. passport or original U.S. birth certificate
  • Social Security card or W-2 form displaying you FULL Social Security number – Note: You will not be required to present proof of your Social Security number if you know the number and DMV is able to electronically verify it, but if you have it bring it – this will save frustration and possibly another trip.
  • Legal Residency – two proofs are required; these can be any combination of the following:
    – a valid Virginia driver’s license with your current address,
    – recent utility bills, mortgage or rental lease agreements that clearly state your current residential street address (NOT a P.O. Box) and YOUR NAME not your spouses or roommate’s name. Remember you need 2 of these documents. (NOTE: “All documents must be originals and will be subject to verification; however, printouts of acceptable online residency documents can be used as proof of residency,” as stated on the Virginia DMV website)
  • Proof of any name changes – you will need a certified marriage certificate or divorce decree, or a valid unexpired US Passport with your full correct current legal name.
  • Here is the full list of documents you can select from in the State of Virginia and here is Homeland Security Real ID info page if you need other options or have a situation that would make the above documents not possible.

Here are the documents I brought in to obtain my REAL ID:
1. Utility Gas bill with my address and in MY NAME (not my husband’s name)
2. Internet bill with my address and in MY NAME (not my husband’s name)
3. Valid US Passport (showed my current legal married name and showed proof of citizenship)
4. My valid current Virginia Drivers License
5. Social Security Card (not a copy – the original card – which I had to order two weeks before because I could not locate mine. Here is a link to get a copy of your Social Security Card – and yes, you have to make an account but it is simple and the card comes quickly).


How long will it take me to get my REAL ID?
How long it takes will really depend on how many people are at the DMV when you arrive. The DMV I visited said to budget an hour and a half, but my actual time was just over 2 hours. They did have a hard time bringing up my photo on their computer system and that took about 15 extra minutes, but other than that, most of the time it took for me was simply waiting for my turn.

Do you walk out with your new REAL ID or do they mail it to you?
You will walk out with your REAL ID, so brush your hair and smile pretty because you will get your picture taken when you apply for your REAL ID. And it is, what it is…but you can always look worse so just incase this is the picture they show of you on the nightly news – do a quick hair check.

What are the best days of the week to go get my REAL ID?
When I asked the person who helped me get my REAL ID if there was a better day or time to come, she said, “It is really busy most every day”. But you can bet if you wait till next Spring, it will be insane. So bring a good book, make sure you phone is charged and that you have all the documents you need.

dmv logo

Which DMV location can I get my REAL ID at?
Not all DMV locations offer this service for example “satelite” DMV locations, so visit here and look up where the closest Virginia DMV Customer Service Center is located that offers the REAL ID.

My name changed after a marriage / divorce / name change request – what do I need to bring to show proof of my name after a name change to get my REAL ID?
You do need a proof of name change so bring the original marriage certificate, divorce decree or if you just changed your name for other reasons bring the original legal name change document. However, if you have a unexpired valid US Passport with your current legal name – that is all you need as proof of your current legal name.

Will they take my original documents when I get my REAL ID?
You need original documents, including those for proof of residency so bring the actual gas bill and cable bill not a copy. But, they don’t keep your documents – they just look at them.


Can I use my REAL ID to board a plane?
Remember the REAL ID can be used on domestic flights, but you still need a valid US Passport to travel outside of the United States.

Does my teenager have to get a REAL ID to fly after May 7, 2025 domestically?
No.  The TSA does not require children under 18 to have identification when traveling with an adult within the United States. However, their adult companion will need to comply with the new law so the adult will need a Valid US Passport, a REAL ID or one of the other acceptable forms of documents after October 2021. Also, the Virginia DMV did mention that airlines may have their own identification policies for minors. So, you might want to check what those rules might be with the airline you are flying when you book your ticket or before you arrive at the airport.

Do I need a REAL ID if I don’t fly?
Your regular Virginia drivers license still functions after May 7, 2025, you can still use it to drive, vote, and apply for and receive federal benefits, so if you do not fly (or if you fly and have a valid US Passport) and you do not go onto secure federal facilities, military bases or nuclear power plants you may not need to get a REAL ID. But the REAL ID is not going away so you might consider getting it when it is time to renew. Here is a great info doc to read.

I don’t drive can I get a REAL ID?
Yes. You can get a REAL ID identification card. They have both a REAL ID identification card and a REAL ID drivers license.

How much more does the REAL ID cost?
In Virginia there is a one time $10 surcharge plus the standard fees. There is no $10 for people 70 years and older (at least in the State of Virginia). My total came to $42 for a REAL ID Drivers License in 2020.

Can I still fly domestically without a REAL ID after May 7, 2025?
Yes, you can fly domestically without a REAL ID after May 7, 2025 as long as you have an unexpired US Passport or one of the other following documents:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • 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
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

Now you may have more questions and/or you may have other situations involving citizenship or other issues that are not addressed in this article. But there is a lot of information for all situations so start by visiting the REAL ID frequently Asked Questions page on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. It has links to DMV websites for all the States. But for my fellow Virginians here is the Virginia DMV’s REAL ID info page.

But most importantly before you head to the DMV for your REAL ID, double check the document list and maybe, bring something to read.

woman-reading waiting for REAL ID

This article was published on March 9, 2020 and last updated on May 7, 2024.


  • Olivia Bada

    Marketing, communications, sales, writing, and web management all come together when working on published pieces for Localourist, The Burg Weekender, The Burg Weekly and Williamsburg Families.

    View all posts CEO

Desktop Ad – 4 Rows

Mobile Ad – 2 Rows