Over the last several years, the U.S. government has been warning everyone that a new type of ID will be required if you ever need to fly domestically, or access certain federal buildings.
Louisiana has been offering the Real ID since 2016, but there are many states throughout the country that are still not fully compliant which is why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced earlier this year that the deadline is extended until May 7 of 2025.
In order to get the Real ID, mainly identified by a star in the corner of your driver's license, you need to come to the DMV with certain documentation, including a birth certificate or passport, your social security card, and 2 documents to establish residency, such as a utility bill or bank statement.
In case you were wondering, only about 30% of Louisiana residents currently have the REAL ID.
If you don't ever plan on flying anywhere or entering a federal building, then you may be ok - but if there's the slightest possibility that a loved one might pass away in another state you need to fly to, or you enter a contest that requires you to show up on the other side of the country to claim your winnings - you might want to get it.
Just to be safe.
Speaking of being safe, if you're planning on traveling to another country and you need to renew or get a new passport in the next year or so, you might want to go ahead and apply for it - like yesterday. The U.S. State Department announced this past spring that due to demand, processing times are much longer. Up to 9 weeks if you pay the fee to expedite - up to 13 weeks if you don't. The government has even resorted to offering special events called "Passport Fairs" ... which is great if you live in California or New Jersey... but not so great if you don't.
If you're taking a cruise you may be inclined to think that you don't need a passport. That's because many cruises that leave from U.S. soil and return to U.S. soil are considered a "closed loop" cruise which means you can show a birth certificate and driver's license and avoid needing a passport. Sure, you can certainly do it this way, but like it is with most attempts to take the easy way out... there's a risk. When you enter another country without a passport, there's a risk you'll end up stranded should something happen - the Segway you're riding on your Cozumel excursion gets hit by a car or your appendix bursts and while you're in the hospital trying to get it all sorted out, your cruise ship goes on to the next port and you're stuck in another country waiting for the U.S. embassy or your Congressman back home to help you fast-track a passport.
Whether you're renewing your about-to-expire passport, or need a new one altogether, pay for the expedited process, and pay for the quicker mail return. Otherwise, you're at the mercy of the passport processor AND the U.S. mail. And that's a whole other subject, isn't it?
Zachary Travel is a full-service travel agency that's served the travel needs of Zachary, Baton Rouge, and clients in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and beyond for almost 40 years. Contact us at 225.654.9210 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.