Real ID

Frequently asked questions

THE FEDERAL REQUIREMENT TO HAVE A REAL ID (GOLD STAR) BEGINS MAY 3, 2023.


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What is the REAL ID Act?

"REAL ID" refers to a federal law called the REAL ID Act of 2005 (Pub. L. 109-13, 119 Stat. 231). Congress passed the REAL ID Act in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as part of an effort to prevent future acts of terrorism. The REAL ID Act established federal security, authentication and issuance standards for state driver's licenses and identification (ID) cards and addressed various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism and border control.

The REAL ID Act is extensive and detailed. This website contains only a brief overview of some of the provisions applicable to the issuance of REAL ID-compliant driver's license and ID cards. Here is a link to the full legislation: www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/real-id-act-text.pdf.

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How does the REAL ID Act affect issuance of driver's license and ID cards?

The REAL ID Act promotes security in the issuance of driver's licenses and ID cards, and deters identity theft and fraud by requiring states to meet certain physical and procedural security standards for production and issuance of driver's licenses and ID cards, as well as certain documentation standards for applicants, including authentication and verification standards for proof of identity, date of birth, Social Security number, residence, and lawful presence in the U.S.

The REAL ID Act does not invalidate state issued driver’s license or ID cards and does not affect using a driver’s license or ID card for usual purposes, such as driving, renting a vehicle, writing a check, purchasing alcohol or tobacco, or entering a casino. The REAL ID Act only affects use of a state-issued driver’s license or ID card to access to certain federally controlled places and activities. Beginning May 3, 2023, a person that wishes to use a state-issued driver’s license or ID card for certain “federal official purposes” defined under the REAL ID Act must present a driver’s license or ID card that has been marked as REAL ID-compliant. (See below for a discussion of the “federal official purposes” that are affected by the REAL ID Act.) The Iowa Department of Transportation began issuing cards with the REAL ID gold star on Jan. 15, 2013.

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When do I need a REAL ID-marked card?

Starting on May 3, 2023, Iowans will need to present a REAL ID-marked card or another TSA-approved document to fly commercially or for federal official purposes. If your driver's license or ID card will expire before that date, you can just wait until it is time to renew your driver's license or ID card to get a REAL ID. If your driver's license or ID card will expire after May 3, 2023, you can come in at any time before or after May 3, 2023, and apply for a REAL ID. A REAL ID driver's license or ID card is not mandatory, and some people may find they do not need one. We encourage you to review the REAL ID FAQs to decide whether and when you need a REAL ID-marked card.  To get a REAL ID, you will need to make an appointment to go to an Iowa driver's license service center and present physical copies of specific documents that prove your identity and residency. Please note it can take up to 21 days to receive your REAL ID in the mail, so please plan ahead.

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What are the differences between current Iowa driver's license and ID cards and REAL ID-marked cards?

Sample Real ID license There is no difference in the materials used to make REAL ID cards and non-REAL ID cards. Both offer the same security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication; contain the same information; and have the same general appearance. The only significant physical difference will be a star verification mark on the front of the card in the upper, right-hand corner.

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How do I decide whether I need a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card?

New applicants - New applicants are already required to bring all the required documents needed to qualify for a REAL ID-marked card. If you are new to Iowa or are newly returned to the state and you successfully complete the requirements for an Iowa driver's license or ID card, you will be issued a REAL ID-marked card.

Current driver's license or ID card holders - If you currently hold a driver's license or ID card that is not marked as REAL ID-compliant (gold star), you can decide whether you want to apply for a REAL ID-marked card. If you will use your card for federal official purposes (i.e., boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, accessing federal facilities that require identification to enter, or entering nuclear power plants), then you may want to apply for a REAL ID-marked card.

If you do not currently use your card for these purposes and do not expect to in the future, you may decide you don’t need a REAL ID-marked card.

Also, if you have another form of federal identification you can use for these purposes, such as a valid U.S. passport or passport card, you may decide you don’t need a REAL ID-marked card.

Already have an Iowa driver's license or ID card with a REAL ID star? Then there is nothing more to do. You can continue to renew your driver's license or ID card as usual, and it will continue to be marked with a REAL ID star.

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What will happen if I do not have a REAL ID-marked card after May 3, 2023, and I attempt to board a commercial aircraft, access a federal facility that requires identification to enter, or enter a nuclear power plant?

The federal agency responsible for security of the airport, federal facility, or nuclear power plant will determine whether to permit access/entrance or subject you to additional screening as prescribed by that agency. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides guidance on traveler identification and screening procedures on their website. Individuals without a REAL ID after May 3, 2023, should contact the applicable federal agency to determine what additional screening procedures will be.

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Can I still drive if I have a valid driver's license that is not marked as REAL ID-compliant?

Yes, your non-REAL ID driver's license will remain valid for all lawful driving purposes.

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Can I still use my valid driver's license or ID card for identification after my individual compliance date if it is not marked as REAL ID-compliant?

Yes, your non-REAL ID card will still be a valid form of photo identification.

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What if I change my mind? Can I get a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card after May 3, 2023?

Yes. May 3, 2023, is just the date federal officials will begin checking for REAL IDs. It is not a deadline for obtaining a REAL ID.

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How do I obtain a REAL ID-marked driver’s license or ID card?

New applicants - If you’re receiving your first Iowa driver’s license or ID card, you will automatically receive a REAL ID. See “What documents do I need to get a REAL ID-marked driver’s license or ID card” to identify the documents you will need to bring.

Current driver’s license or ID card holders - If you already hold a valid Iowa license or ID, getting a REAL ID-marked card is your choice. To get one, go to any driver’s license issuance site and present the required documents. (See “What documents do I need to get a REAL ID-marked driver’s license or ID card” to identify the documents you will need.) You can upgrade to a REAL ID when you renew your existing driver’s license or ID card; or you can get a duplicate card that is REAL ID-marked for $10 at any time.

All applicants must make an appointment at any driver’s license service center and bring copies of proof of identity; date of birth; Iowa residence; and lawful status or presence in the United States. Applicants will also need to provide their Social Security number. We highly recommend that you make a list of the exact documents you’ll need to bring to obtain a REAL ID using our online checklist.

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Will a REAL ID-marked card cost more than one that is not marked?

No. There is no additional fee for new, duplicate, or renewed driver's licenses or ID cards that include a REAL ID-mark.

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Will a REAL ID-marked card be valid for a different length of time than one that is not marked?

No. REAL ID cards are issued for the same length of time as non-REAL ID cards, depending on the holder’s age and lawful status in the U.S.

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Where can I get a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card?

You may apply at any Iowa driver's license issuance site throughout the state. You will need to  make an appointment and present specific documents that prove your identity and residency.

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Are there any new knowledge and drive test requirements to a get a REAL ID-marked driver’s license?

No. REAL ID does not require any additional driving tests. It is focused only on identity security.

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Does the REAL ID Act apply to all types of driver's licenses and ID cards?

Yes. Any type of driver’s license or ID card (commercial, noncommercial, full-term, limited term, etc.) can be marked as a REAL ID. .

What documents do I need to obtain a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card?

Regardless of whether you are a new applicant or current card holder, you must bring the same types of documents to get a REAL ID-marked card. You will need to make an appointment  to go to an Iowa driver's license service center .

To help applicants identify and gather the required documents, use the Iowa DOT's online checklist Prepare for Success. Simply answer a few questions and the system will create a customized list of documents you need to bring with you.

  1. Identity, date of birth and lawful status in the U.S. You must present one of the documents listed below, as well as any documents proving your legal name change history (if applicable).
  2. Social Security number. You must present one document listing your name and full Social Security number, which we will use to verify your SSN through the Social Security Online Verification (SSOLV) system.
  3. Iowa residency and current residential address. You must present two physical documents that include your name and current Iowa residential address that demonstrate residency in the state of Iowa. See examples of acceptable documents below.

Identity, date of birth, and lawful status: To document identity and date of birth, you must submit one of the following documents.

  • Valid, unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
  • Certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state of the United States. (“State” includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.) It must be a certified copy and have the stamp or raised seal of the issuing authority. A hospital-issued certificate is not acceptable. A certified birth certificate issued by Puerto Rico must be certified as being issued on or after July 1, 2010.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State (Form FS-240, DS-1350, or FS-545)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550, N-570, or N-578)
  • Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560, N-56, or N-645)
  • Unexpired Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551), including an I-94 with attached photo stamped “I-551 Temporary Proof of Lawful Permanent Resident” or a foreign passport stamped “Processed for I-551”
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766)
  • Record of Arrival and Departure (I-94) stamped “Refugee,” “Parolee,” or “Asylee”
  • Unexpired foreign passport accompanied by the approved I-94 documenting the applicant's most recent admittance into the United States

Driver’s license personnel will determine if documents provided from this list are authentic, valid, and acceptable. Digital, photocopies and faxes of the above documents will NOT be accepted.

If you present a permanent resident card, an employment authorization document, a refugee/asylee I-94, or a foreign passport with I-94, we are required to verify the document, your lawful status, and duration of stay through the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) electronic verification system. In some instances, a secondary inquiry will be necessary to verify the document presented. You will not be issued a license or ID if your immigration document shows your remaining status time is less than 30 days.

Social Security number (SSN): The Iowa DOT must verify your SSN, name, and date of birth with the Social Security Administration at the time of your application, through Social Security Online Verification (SSOLV). To document your SSN, present one of the following documents that contain your name and full Social Security number.

  1. Your Social Security card
  2. W-2 form
  3. Social Security Administration Form 1099
  4. Non-Social Security Administration Form 1099
  5. Pay stub
  6. IRS form 1095-A, 1095-B, or 1095-C
  7. Bank statement
  8. Military document
  9. Any other document that lists your name and full Social Security Number (not just the last four digits)

If you are a temporary foreign national not authorized for employment, you do not have to document a SSN, but the Iowa DOT will be required to verify your non-work authorized status. If you are eligible for employment but do not have a SSN, you are required to obtain and present one.

The Iowa DOT will electronically verify your name, date of birth, and SSN with the Social Security Administration. Make sure your document is up to date and accurate to avoid delay.

If you need to correct or update information at the SSA, do so several days before you apply for a driver's license or ID card. For information on how to do this, visit www.ssa.gov. Your SSN will not be listed on your driver's license or ID card. The Iowa DOT will assign you a unique driver's license or ID number.

Iowa residency and current residential address: You must present two hardcopy documents  that include your current name and Iowa residential address. Examples of acceptable documents are listed below.

  • An Iowa voter registration card.
  • A valid Iowa vehicle registration certificate.
  • Valid insurance card or certificate of coverage (life, health, auto, homeowner’s, or renter’s)
  • Second valid insurance card or certificate of coverage (different than first)
  • Utility hook up or bill (water, gas, electric, or garbage removal)
  • Second utility hookup or bill (different than the first)
  • Telephone hookup, service agreement or bill (landline or mobile)
  • Statement from a financial institution (bank, credit union, or other financial institution)
  • Second statement from a financial institution (different from the first)
  • Personal check or deposit slip issued by a financial institution (you may mark this “VOID”)
  • Credit, debit, or charge card statement
  • Iowa residential mortgage, lease, or rental agreement (lease and rental agreements must include the landlord’s name and contact information)
  • Application for homestead tax credit for Iowa residential property
  • Application for military tax credit for Iowa residential property
  • Valid real estate tax statement or receipt for Iowa residential property
  • Pay stub or statement from your employer
  • Your current school enrollment papers for an Iowa public or private school
  • Current school enrollment papers for a dependent child in an Iowa public or private school
  • A federal, State of Iowa, or local government document (such as a receipt, license, permit, assessment, professional or trade license, or other document)
  • Second federal, State of Iowa, or local government document (different than the first)
  • An envelope, box, postcard, or magazine that includes a postmark or stamped date
  • Iowa driver's license or ID card that has not been expired for more than one year

Other items may be accepted subject to review and approval by Iowa licensing personnel.

The residential address you supply must be a street or highway address. It may not be a post office box. In areas where a number and street name have not been assigned, an address convention used by the U.S. Postal Service is acceptable. (You may use a post office box as your mailing address.)

If you are a minor (see below), the consent form signed by your parent, guardian, or custodian will establish your residence and residential address without additional documentation.

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Can I use my out-of-state or Iowa driver's license or ID card as proof of identity?

No, however, you should still bring your out-of-state or Iowa driver's license or ID card to the driver’s license issuance site when you appear for issuance, as you are required to surrender all other driver's licenses or ID cards when you obtain an Iowa driver's license or ID card.

Additionally, an out-of-state license may help avoid knowledge and drive testing when applying for a new Iowa driver's license of the same class and endorsements.

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What if my name has changed?

If your name is different than the one shown on your birth certificate or other document used to establish identity and date of birth, you may be required to provide proof of legal name change. The following hardcopy documents are acceptable:

  • Certified marriage certificate. Any marriage certificate must be issued by the state office of vital statistics or equivalent agency in your state or country of marriage. It must be a certified copy and have the stamp or raised seal of the issuing authority. A church, chapel or similarly issued certificate is not acceptable.
  • Court order documenting name change. This could include a court order under petition for name change, a court order for name change in a divorce decree or decree if annulment, or a court order for name change in a decree of adoption. Any court order must contain your prior full legal name, your court-ordered full legal name; and be stamped with the official courts eal (date stamps and file stamps are not the official court seal).
  • Unexpired and valid REAL ID driver’s license or ID card issued by another state, if it lists your current legal name.

In all cases, the documents must connect the name shown on your birth certificate or other document used to establish identity and date of birth to your current name. You do not have to document a complete listing of all the names you may have previously used if the documents you provide clearly connect the two.

If you already hold an Iowa driver’s license or ID card and a Social Security card in your current legal name, you do not need to provide proof of legal name change, but we will electronically verify your current and prior legal name with the Social Security Administration.

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What if I am a minor?

Minors (persons under 18 years old) will be issued a driver's license or ID card with the REAL ID marking. (This includes a learner’s permit, minor‘s school license, intermediate license, full license, and minor’s restricted license.) Minors that are current driver's license or ID card holders have the same choice as existing card holders and can obtain a compliant card by following the same process.

Minors that are new applicants or that are upgrading an existing permit or license to a minor’s school license, intermediate license, full license, or minor’s restricted license must also present a consent form completed by their parent, guardian, or custodian. The consent form shows the parent’s, guardian’s, or custodian’s permission to obtain a driver's license or ID card and, if applicable, to drive at the level or for the purpose requested. Minors presenting a consent form do not have to provide additional documents showing residency and residential address.

Minors applying for a minor’s school license must present a completed Affidavit for School License form. All of these forms can be downloaded or obtained from any Iowa driver’s license issuance site and completed ahead of time; and if that is done, the parent, guardian, or custodian does not have to accompany the minor to the Iowa driver’s license issuance site. All of the forms except for the Affidavit for School License also can be completed by the parent, guardian, or custodian electronically at any Iowa driver’s license issuance site; the Affidavit for School License must also be signed by the minor’s school and therefore can’t be completed electronically at the station.

Emancipated minors (minors that are married) do not have to provide a consent form but must provide their marriage certificate to show emancipation.

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I do not have a Social Security card, IRS Form W-2, or tax document to demonstrate a valid Social Security number. What should I do?

You may provide your social security number when you arrive in-person. If it verifies electronically with the federal Social Security Administration, no further proof is needed.

If you do not have a Social Security number but are eligible to have one, you must apply for a Social Security number before we can issue your REAL ID.  More information is available on the SSA’s website:  www.ssa.gov.

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I no longer have my birth certificate with an official seal. What should I do?

If you were born in Iowa, contact the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Records, Lucas Office Building, 321 E. 12th St., Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075. Information on how to obtain certified copies is available via the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website , or by calling 515-281-4944.  Requests can be made by phone, online, mail, and in person. You may also consult with your county recorder as your record of birth may be on file in that office.

If you were born outside of Iowa, contact your birth state’s vital statistics office or utilize one of several for-profit companies to purchase it. For information on where to write for vital records in other states, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website: www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm.

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I HAVE A WALLET-SIZED OR SHORT-FORM BIRTH CERTIFICATE. IS THAT ACCEPTABLE?

We know that some states, including Iowa for a short time, issued wallet-sized or short-form birth certificates, and these are usually acceptable depending on what information is listed. As long as the birth certificate is certified, contains your full name and date of birth, and lists a “file number” or “file/issue date,” it is acceptable. If it does not list a sex, you will need to ensure you also bring your current license or ID card issued by Iowa or another state or a marriage certificate that lists your sex.

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Once I obtain a REAL ID-marked card, do I have to submit these documents again when it is time for renewal?

No, you only have to go through this process one time. After that the REAL ID-mark will remain on your card every time you renew it. However, a person that is a foreign national with temporary lawful status has to establish lawful status at each renewal.

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If I have temporary lawful status in the United States, will the driver's license or ID card issued to me be different?

Your card will read “limited term” at the top and be valid for the period of your lawful stay in the United States, not to exceed two years.

If your lawful stay has no defined end or expiration date, it will be valid for no longer than one year.

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Does a driver's license or ID card marked “limited term” have different or lesser privileges?

No, “limited term” cards confer the same identity and driving privileges, they simply must be renewed more frequently so we can re-confirm your lawful status in the U.S.



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I have had a driver's license or ID card in Iowa for many years. Why do I have to show documentation to obtain a REAL ID-marked card?

Federal regulations require all persons that want a REAL ID-marked card to have their identity, date of birth, Social Security number, residential address, and lawful status reverified before being issued the card.

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What is document verification; and what verification systems is Iowa using?

Verification is a guard against document and identity fraud. It means the Iowa DOT must check with the agency or authority that issued the document to make sure it is valid.

Iowa uses Social Security Online Verification (SSOLV) to verify Social Security information; Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) to verify immigration documents and status; State to State (S2S) to verify licenses or ID cards issued by other U.S. states, and U.S. Passport Verification Service to verify passport information.

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I have heard the REAL ID Act is creating a national database of driver and identification information. Is this true?

No. The information you give to the Iowa DOT held securely by the Iowa DOT. It is not entered into a national database.

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I have heard that REAL ID-marked driver's license and ID cards have an electronic chip in them that allows my movements to be tracked. Is this true?

No. There is no electronic chip or other electronic device in Iowa’s driver's license or ID cards, whether marked as REAL ID-compliant or not.

Iowa’s driver's licenses and ID cards do have the required bar code printed on the back; that code requires manual scanning and only conveys the information appearing on the face of the driver's license or ID card, without the photo.

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Do I need a REAL ID to vote in Iowa?

No. While you do need to show documentation that proves your identity and your proof of residence to vote in Iowa, if you are using a driver’s license or ID for this purpose, it does not need to have the REAL ID marking.