Copy of Texas Driver's License with a gold star on it

You don’t need a gold star on your driver’s license or ID to fly today, but you will. Beginning May 3, 2023, federal agencies will no longer accept identification cards and driver licenses issued at the state level without stars on them for passengers older than 18 years old. This is an extension from the original October 2021 date due to the COVID pandemic. 

Not everyone owns a federally issued passport, especially if they don’t travel internationally. For domestic flights, a state-issued document like a driver’s license is all you need to fly. 

However, according to a law called the REAL ID Act, air travelers in the United States will require a driver’s license that complies with the Real ID requirements when traveling within the United States of America beginning May 3rd, 2023.

Other documents that people will be able to use are passports or their U.S. Military card. Most people use their license to get through security on domestic flights though.

Related: Need A Gold Star On Texas Driver’s License To Fly?

This law means that your driver’s license MUST comply with TSA’s requirements for you to fly domestically. A complying license will have a star on it. Does yours?   

The U.S. Congress introduced this law in 2005. It was one of the security measures put in place in the wake of one of the most significant attacks against the United States of America on its own land, 9/11.

It is meant to set minimum standards of security for identification documents issued. These documents include identification cards and driver’s licenses.  

From May 3, 2023, you will need a gold star on driver’s license or ID card for federal agencies such as TSA to board a federally regulated commercial aircraft. This will be the acceptable form of federal ID and ensure they are REAL ID compliant. 

Additionally, a REAL ID will be required to enter federal facilities in addition to the current identification requirements.

This is one of the new minimum security standards that will be used in federal buildings as well.  As such, your domestic air travel in the US will require REAL ID.  

Here is a great video on it from the Department of Homeland Security


Does Your Driver’s License Have a Star On It?

To check whether you have a real id compliant driver’s license, check near the upper right-hand corner of your card. The star will either be gold or black.  

If your’s doesn’t have a star in the upper right corner, know that some states already have enhanced their licenses to comply with the Real ID requirements. Such enhanced licenses do not have a star, but they have the United States of America flag on them or say “Enhanced”.

Some of the states that issue both the enhanced driver’s licenses and the Real ID include New York, Minnesota, Vermont, and Michigan. Washington, DC, only issue an enhanced driver’s license, which is also acceptable. 

There are other states that already have driver’s licenses that do not have a star but comply with the other requirements from TSA and Homeland Security Agency. These states include Hawaii, Utah, Ohio, and Tennessee. If you are from these states, it is highly recommended that you confirm with your state whether you will need a replacement or not.  

Your license or ID does not meet the requirements if it has any of the two phrases below:

  • Federal Limits Apply
  • Not for Federal Identification

Related: Can You Bring A Gillette Razor On An Airplane?

 Do I need a gold star if I have a flag on my license?

You don’t need a gold star if your driver’s license or ID has an American flag on it or says “Enhanced”.

Why does my driver’s license say federal limits apply?

If you see “Federal Limits Apply” on your driver’s license, it doesn’t meet federal standards of the REAL ID Act, but it does not prohibit you from using it for Form I-9  to establish your identity.

 What does a star on your driver’s license mean?

The star on your driver’s license certifies that you have met the Real ID Act requirements. This means that the citizenship of the holder has been verified by a state department like the DMV that issued the ID.  

A star will appear in the top right corner of your Real ID license or non-driver identification card to indicate that this document can be used for federal identification.

How do you get the star on your driver’s license?

You might be wondering what you need to do or what is required to get the gold star on your driver’s license. The star is given during the application of the state-issued documents.

You can typically renew your license online through your state’s driver license renewal website. You will receive a gold star on your new license when you renew before the deadline.

You may need to present more identification documents during your application for your citizenship to be verified. These documents can include your birth certificate, proof of your residential address, and your social security card. 

If you aren’t able to for some reason, or you would like to do it in person, you will need to visit the DMV in your state to replace your old one with one that already has a star and is a federal REAL ID license from the federal government.

Can I get the star on my license online?

In some states, you are able to. The majority of states do not offer online or mail applications for REAL ID compliant licenses or ID cards. A REAL ID-compliant license or ID card cannot be obtained with faxes or photocopies or digital copies of identity documents presented (like a birth certificate) since they must be originals or copies certified with a raised seal. This is the case in the state of Michigan.

Can you fly without a star on your driver’s license?

You can fly without a star on your driver’s license until May 3, 2023. After that, you need to have one in order to use your state driver’s license as your ID to fly. Otherwise, you can use a valid passport or U.S. military ID. You will not be allowed to fly if your identity cannot be verified in this way.

Related: Do You Need A Gold Star On Your Arkansas Driver’s License To Fly?

What is the star on your license for?

There is a gold circle with a star in the right corner of REAL ID compliant driver licenses and identification credentials to indicate that they are compliant and can be used where a REALD ID is required for federal purposes. Flights, military bases, and nuclear power plants are a few of these places.

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act is a federal law that requires states to issue driver’s licenses and ID cards that meet minimum security standards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and ID cards issued by states that don’t meet those standards.

It states as of May 3, 2023, REAL IDs, defined as qualifying driver’s licenses, non-driver identification cards, and passports, will be required to board domestic flights or enter secure federal facilities.

Your Real ID Driver License or Non-Driver Identification Card will be marked with a star in the top right corner or will have an American flag on it or the word “Enhanced” to indicate it qualifies for use as federal identification.

If your current identification card or license doesn’t qualify, so long as it hasn’t expired, it will be accepted until May 3, 2023. 

Do I need a REAL ID card?

Yes, you need a REAL ID card to fly domestically and for access to many federal buildings. They will be mandatory as of May 3, 2023. Until then you can use your current driver’s license or ID card that you have been using. But after that date, you will need to have a replacement card or REAL ID compliant card for international travel or domestic flight or to enter a secured federal facility.

If you have additional questions about the REAL ID Act or the IDs themselves

The Department of Homeland Security has a great FAQ here.

Additional information can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s site here: state compliance and state implementation

You can also contact the Transportation Security Administration: 866-289-9673