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


From October 2021, federal agencies will no longer accept identification cards and driver licenses issued at the state level without stars on them.


Not everyone owns a passport, which is a federally issued document, especially if they are not international travelers. For domestic flights, a state-issued document like a driver’s license is all you need.


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

Other documents that people will be able to use are passports or the U.S. Military card. Most people use a driver’s license to get through security though. 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 after the 9/11 event. It was one of the security measures set forth in the wake of one of the most significant attacks against the United States of America on its own land. It is meant to set minimum standards of security for identification documents issued at the source. These documents include identification cards and driver’s licenses. 


From October 2021, federal agencies will no longer accept identification cards and driver licenses issued at the state level without a star on them. It is important to remember that airports are federal facilities. As such, your domestic travels in the USA will be limited to your compliance with the Act.  


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

To check whether your license has a star on it, check near the top right corner of the card. The star will either be gold or black. 


Some states already have enhanced driver’s licenses that 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. 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. 


You can also tell if your identification card or driver’s license meets the requirements of the Act by checking if it has any of the two phrases below:

  • Federal Limits Apply
  • Not for Federal Identification

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. 


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

The star is given during the application of the state-issued documents. You will 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 have a driver’s license without a star, you will need to visit the DMV in your state to replace it with one that has a star.

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

If you have additional questions, the Department of Homeland Security has a great FAQ here. and this video below.






flight preparation checklist

Flight preparation checklist – what you need to know

travel headphones

Travel headphones

Bluetooth headphones for travelers

Best Bluetooth headphones for travelers

first class air travel

Best tips and benefits of flying first class

best noise canceling earbuds for travel

Best noise canceling earbuds for flying

Sharing is caring!