Having a star on your license means that you have a REAL ID.

Currently, you do not need a star on your license – i.e. possess a REAL ID – in order to fly domestically within the U.S.

From May 7, 2025, you will need a Real ID if you plan on using your state-issued ID or license to fly.

A Star on Your License Will Soon Be Necessary

Beginning May 7, 2025, if you are 18 years old or older, you will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.

Other acceptable forms of ID include:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Permanent resident card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Border crossing card
  • An acceptable photo ID issued by a federally recognized, Tribal Nation/Indian Tribe
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • 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
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

Note that a REAL ID is required only if you plan to use your state-issued ID or license to fly within the U.S.

Also note that Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York states issue REAL ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which are acceptable. Washington state issues enhanced driver’s licenses only.

State-issued enhanced driver’s licenses are marked with a flag.

Real ID Isn’t Valid For International Flights

Regardless if you have a star on your license or not, you will not be able to fly internationally with a REAL ID.

To fly internationally, you must own a passport and in some instances a visa too, depending on the country you are flying to.

Minors also need a passport to fly internationally.

The necessity of having a passport for international travel is especially confusing for first time flyers.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport For an International Flight?

Why You Need a Star on Your License to Fly

A star on your license shows that you have a REAL ID, which is necessary to fly starting from May 7, 2025, if you plan to use your state-issued ID or license to fly within the U.S.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 to establish “minimum security standards for license issuance and production” to help prevent fraudulent identification.

It has taken this long to come into effect due to various roadblocks and the Covid pandemic.

Documents You Need to Get a REAL ID

While the requirements to get a REAL ID can vary depending on your state’s driver’s licensing agency, at a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:

  • Your full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Two proofs of address of your principal residence
  • Your lawful status

Minors Need Not Apply

Minors do not need any form of ID to fly domestically as long as they are accompanied by an adult who has an acceptable form of ID to fly.

No Exceptions For TSA PreCheck or If You Are Enrolled in CLEAR

Regardless if you are a TSA PreCheck passenger or are enrolled in CLEAR, you will still need a REAL ID to fly from May 7, 2025, or any other form or acceptable ID.

Related: Can Your Spouse Travel With TSA PreCheck?

A REAL ID is Fairly Cheap

REAL ID driver licenses cost $30-35, depending on the state, plus applicable renewal fees.

In California, for example, REAL ID costs $35 compared to $30 in Pennsylvania.

What Happens If You Try to Fly Without a REAL ID?

From May 7, 2025, if you arrive at the airport without a REAL ID or other form of acceptable ID, you will not be permitted through the security checkpoint and will therefore not be able to fly.

As it stands, it may still be possible to fly if you do not have a valid form of identification, as long as you provide other documents that can help prove your identity, which the TSA will use along with checking in existing databases to prove your identity.

However, starting from May 7, 2025, this is unlikely to still be the case.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).