A woman walks through the TSA security checkpoint area at the Portland International Jetport on April 29. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

In less than a year, Mainers will no longer be able to board domestic flights with a standard driver’s license.

Residents will either need to pay an extra fee to get a Real ID-compliant license – marked with a gold star in the top right corner – or use a passport.

The change is the result of a federal rule passed after 9/11 that is meant to boost the security of state IDs, curb the use of fake ones and standardize requirements across states. The deadline has been delayed multiple times, and unless it is changed again, it will go into effect May 7, 2025 – 17 years after it was supposed to.

“Essentially, (the Real ID is) about freedom,” Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said Thursday during a news conference at the Portland International Jetport. “It’s about that freedom to do what you love, to engage, to travel. It’s that relationship with Portland Jetport … It’s about the relationship with Transportation Security Administration that is working to keep us safe. It’s about all of us doing our part to prepare for the future.”

As of June 1, 21.2% of Maine licenses and IDs were Real ID-compliant – almost 250,000 out of about 1.1 million, Bellows said. Over the past two years, the number of Real IDs has consistently increased by about half a percent, or 5,500, per month, she said.

Here’s what Mainers need to know before the new rules take effect in May.


Is the deadline going to be delayed again?

Federal officials say no.

“Now that COVID is pretty much far behind us, we’re moving along quite well, and I’m pretty confident that it’s May 7, it will happen,” said TSA New England spokesperson Daniel Velez.

The original deadline for implementing Real IDs was in 2008. State objections over cost and privacy concerns caused the first delays, and then the pandemic. Maine was one of the last states to comply, in 2018.

I have a passport already. Do I need a Real ID, too?

No. After the deadline, Mainers will still be able to board flights using a passport even if they do not have a Real ID. A Real ID is not a requirement, but it is necessary to board a commercial flight if you do not have a passport with you.

The only other application of a Real ID is that it will be required for entry into federal and military buildings. However, a passport can still be used for entry as well.

What will happen if I show up to the airport without a Real ID or passport?

Anyone who does not provide a Real ID or passport at the airport will not be able to continue through security. This summer, workers at the jetport will be handing out flyers with information about how to obtain a Real ID to anyone who passes through the airport without one.


Bellows emphasized that the process to obtain a Real ID is not instantaneous and encouraged people to begin planning for the transition now.

How much does a Real ID cost?

A Real ID driver’s license for people under 65 costs $55. That’s $25 more than the standard Maine driver’s license, which costs $30. Both last for six years.

For adults who are 65 or older, a Real ID driver’s license costs $40, compared to $20 for a standard one. These can be used for four years.

People who don’t drive can get a state identification card that is Real ID-compliant for $30. This is valid for six years.

A first-time passport book for anyone 16 or older costs $165 and lasts 10 years. Renewing it costs $130.

This means the cost of a Real ID license equates to about $9 per year, or $10 for older adults; a Real ID nondriver card is $5 a year; and a passport costs $16.50 per year for the first 10 years and $13 annually after that.


If you don’t need a passport, it’s cheaper to get a Real ID-compliant license or non-driver identification card.

So, how do I get a Real ID? Is it harder to get than a regular license or ID? 

The only differences between the requirements for a Real ID and a standard Maine driver’s license are the need to provide two documents proving Maine residency instead of one, and the need to visit a branch of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to complete the process.

As with standard driver’s licenses, Mainers are also required to present a document that demonstrates identity, date of birth and proof of U.S. citizenship and U.S. lawful permanent residence or status for the Real ID. Examples of this document include a passport or a certified copy of a birth certificate. Applicants also need to provide a Social Security number or evidence of their ineligibility for one.

A Real ID requires people to have their photo taken and sign their ID in person at a BMV office to further ensure true identity. Whereas Mainers are able to renew a standard driver’s license online, a Real ID license must be renewed in person.

Nondriver identification cards that are Real ID-compliant are also only issued at BMV offices.

What’s the point?

Real IDs are meant to increase security during travel.

Real IDs, which have digital photos, can be used with facial recognition software. They also require the digital archiving of identity documents such as birth certificates or Social Security numbers.

Director of driver’s license services for the Maine BMV, Christopher Ireland, noted that having a Real ID in addition to a passport means Mainers can have more peace of mind if travel plans arise unexpectedly. By having two forms of proper identification at your disposal, people do not have to worry if one is expired when they have to travel domestically.

Related Headlines

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Press Herald account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.