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Local Editorials

Planning to get Real? Here are some things you need to know before you get a gold star ID

Real IDs are distinguishable from non-Real IDs by a gold star on the upper right corner
Real IDs are distinguishable from non-Real IDs by a gold star on the upper right corner

If you want to fly anywhere in the United States or visit a secure federal facility after Oct. 1 and don’t want to carry your passport, you need to get a Real ID from your nearest full-service Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

That’s it – fly or visit a secure federal facility. If you don’t plan to do either of those things, your regular Illinois driver’s license is just fine and you don’t have to worry about updating your current license.

Another point of emphasis: It must be a full-service facility. Express facilities can’t help with Real ID.

The Real ID Act was motivated by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, whose perpetrators had legitimate driver’s licenses. It was passed in 2005 and was supposed to be implemented in 2008, but states needed time – and a way to finance the change – before it took effect.

The goal of Real ID was to standardize disparate licensing rules and make it more difficult to get a fake license.

So far about 660,000 Illinoisans have been issued Real IDs. A Real ID in Illinois is a new drivers’ license with a gold star in the upper right and, just like getting a gold star in school, it requires a bit of work.

For a Real ID, you need:

• One document that shows your full legal name, such as a certified birth certificate copy or U.S. passport.

• One document that proves your Social Security number, such as a Social Security card or W-2 form.

• Two different documents that prove Illinois residency, such as a utility bill, canceled check or pay stub.

• One document with a proof of written signature, such as a current Illinois or out-of-state license.

Married women have it more difficult if they took their husband’s surname. If they have a passport, they’re in good shape. If not, they need a birth certificate and a marriage certificate to show the name change. Women who have been married more than once will need certified documentation for each name change.

Also, if utility bills are in the husband’s name, women can use a credit card or bank statement or a voter registration card. Remember, two forms need to show proof of residency.

The process takes about 25 minutes, but driver’s license facilities tend to have quite a bit of walk-in traffic and usually there are lines. We suggest you set aside at least an hour.

It’s essential that you have the right documents. You don’t want to make a return trip because you were missing the proper paperwork. You need to have printed documents. You can’t just show a copy of a bill on your phone or tablet. Real ID is a federal requirement and documents must be scanned into the system.

If you have any doubts about whether you have what you need before you make the trek to a facility, go online to You will find an interactive checklist that will make applying for Real ID easier.

Real ID essentially is free. If you need to renew your driver’s license, the cost is $30 whether you get Real ID or not. If you recently renewed and want that gold star, the cost is $5. People 65 and older get the corrected license free. Your Real ID will retain the same expiration date as your original license.

You can wait until your driver’s license expires and save yourself $5 and a trip to a driver’s license facility. The Secretary of State’s Office will continue to issue Real IDs after Oct. 1. There’s no urgency to make a change unless you want to fly after Oct. 1 and don’t want to carry your passport.

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