Deadline nears for getting Iowa license to fly

You soon may not be able to board a plane without one

A sign posted March 10 at the Iowa Department of Transportation Driver's License Station in Cedar Rapids shows how to ch
A sign posted March 10 at the Iowa Department of Transportation Driver’s License Station in Cedar Rapids shows how to check if your driver’s license has the Real ID designation. License holders who do not have a Real ID star by the Oct. 1 will be required to show an alternative form of identification, such as a passport, when boarding an airplane. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

With the deadline quickly approaching for getting a Real ID needed for most commercial airline travel, the Iowa Department of Transportation is preparing to see more customers than usual before Oct. 1.

A gold star on a driver’s license indicates the holder has verified his or her identity. A star like that is needed by most people to fly commercially or enter federal facilities like a courthouse or military base. The holder of a license without the star will need a current military ID or passport to fly commercially or access a federal facility.

“We are noticing a lot more people coming in,” said Darcy Doty, director for driver and identification services with the Iowa DOT. “They want that Real ID before Oct. 1. Since the first of the year, we’re averaging between a 75 and 78 percent weekly adoption rate.”

In the first week of March, 78 percent, or 16,875 out of 21,484 Iowa DOT customers obtained a Real ID, Doty said.

“Our staff is doing a great job at trying to accommodate that,” Doty said.

Older driver’s licenses without the gold star will still suffice for driving a car, purchasing age-regulated products like alcohol and cigarettes and gambling at Iowa casinos. And a Real ID still can be obtained after the deadline.

But don’t expect your excursion through airport security to go well without one. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says travelers who do not show Real ID licenses or one of the acceptable alternatives starting Oct. 1 will not be allowed through an airport security checkpoint.

At the beginning of this year, only about 41 percent of the state’s 2,570,981 licenses had the Real ID designation.


While some people will never need to fly or access a federal facility — or will use a passport of military ID instead — the increased demand at driver’s licenses stations indicates many Iowans still need to get one.

It does not cost any extra to get a Real ID. If your license expires before Oct. 1, you can obtain the designation at the same time you renew. If your license expires after Oct. 1 but you want the gold star before then, you can come into to a station and get one.

Real IDs are not issued online or at kiosks.

To handle the increased demand, the Iowa DOT is putting information desks at service centers and letting customers schedule Real ID appointments online at by the end of the month.

When customers seeking a Real ID walk into a service center, they can check at an information desk to make sure they have all the paperwork required before they take a number to wait in line for a counter to become available.

Temporary employees will be added to eight driver’s license stations in Iowa, including one in Cedar Rapids and one in Iowa City.

Lisa Miller, supervisor at the driver’s license station in Cedar Rapids, said customers should be prepared and patient for the office to be busy.

Tuesday is the station’s busiest day, with an average of an hour and a half wait time. Saturday mornings are the next busiest.

“Surprisingly, people are prepared to get their Real ID,” Miller said. “Every once in awhile we will have someone who has the wrong birth certificate or marriage license.”


Be prepared, Miller advises. Review what papers are needed to obtain a Real ID and double check them to make sure you have the correct ones when you arrive.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses — a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission. Iowa has received extensions on complying with the act since 2012.

The papers you need

Iowa DOT requires several documents before it issues a Real ID to provide identity, age, residency and citizenship or legal status.

• One of these: A certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, an employment authorization document, a permanent resident card or a foreign passport with an approved form I-94. If you use a birth certificate, it must have the stamp or raised seal of the issuing authority; a hospital-issued certificate is not acceptable;

• One of these: A Social Security card, a W-2 form or a pay stub with your name and the full Social Security number;

• Two of these: Voter registration card, valid vehicle registration, rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill or employment, medical or school documents. Several other documents showing proof of residency also are acceptable.

An original or certified copy of a name change document such as a marriage certificate or divorce degree may also be required if you have changed your name.

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