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How to Get a Real ID in Alabama

An Alabama REAL ID is a type of identification with enhanced security features that is approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The REAL ID act, passed in 2005, requires all states to provide credentials that are more secure than a traditional ID card or driver's license. Currently, you can use a standard driver's license or ID as an official form of identification for most purposes. However, you may need a REAL ID driver's license or identification card in the future if you want to continue using your credentials to board domestic airline flights and enter federal facilities.

The Driver License Division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is in charge of issuing secure credentials as well as standard IDs and licenses. If you want to apply for a DHS REAL ID in Alabama, learn everything you need to know about the process in the sections below.

An Alabama REAL ID is a type of identification with enhanced security features that is approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The REAL ID act, passed in 2005, requires all states to provide credentials that are more secure than a traditional ID card or driver's license. Currently, you can use a standard driver's license or ID as an official form of identification for most purposes. However, you may need a REAL ID driver's license or identification card in the future if you want to continue using your credentials to board domestic airline flights and enter federal facilities.

The Driver License Division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is in charge of issuing secure credentials as well as standard IDs and licenses. If you want to apply for a DHS REAL ID in Alabama, learn everything you need to know about the process in the sections below.

Do you need to obtain a REAL ID card in Alabama?

REAL ID cards are not mandatory in Alabama, but you may choose to apply for these credentials if you wish. The law requiring secure identification does not go into effect until Oct. 1, 2020. In other words, you can use a standard photo ID to board domestic flights and enter federal facilities until this date.

Remember, getting a secure ID is not required if you prefer to apply for a standard identification credential. If you still do not have a secure ID by the October 2020 deadline, you simply need another DHS-approved form of identification such as a passport to fly domestically or enter restricted facilities.

This type of card is indicated with a gold star on driver's license or identification cards, making it easy to differentiate from a standard card. Aside from the star, these cards are identical to regular licenses or IDs. While they may look similar in appearance, star ID cards are considered more secure and come with additional access.

REAL ID Requirements in Alabama

In order to get REAL ID credentials, you will need to meet the requirements and have all of the appropriate documentation. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to get this type of card, but you will need to meet all of the eligibility requirements for a driver's license or ID, depending on the type of credentials you want to apply for. For example, if you are trying to get a driver's license with a gold star, you will need to pass any licensing tests that may be required. There are not any additional tests for getting a secure ID compared to a standard credential.

The REAL ID documents you present to the ALEA driver license office must establish your name, date of birth, address and legal presence in the U.S. If you are a U.S. citizen, you will need to prove your identity by showing one of the following:

  • Unexpired U.S. passport
  • Original or certified birth certificate
  • Certificate of naturalization or citizenship

If you are a non-citizen, a permanent resident card or other DHS-issued document showing your full name and legal presence can be used to verify your identity. Regardless of whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, your REAL ID documentation must show your current legal name. Be prepared to present a marriage certificate, divorce decree or other court-issued document if your legal name does not match the name on your documentation.

Finally, citizens and non-citizens must present proof of their Social Security Number (SSN) and two documents showing their principal address in Alabama. A utility bill, voter registration card, rental agreement, mortgage statement or other similar documentation can be shown to satisfy the address requirement, while a Social Security card, W-2 form or other documents can verify an applicant's SSN.

When to Get a Real ID in Alabama

If you meet all the requirements for a REAL ID in AL, you may apply for a card whenever you are ready. Popular times to apply include the following:

  • When you are renewing your current driver's license or ID
  • When your name or address changes and you need to apply for an amended card.
  • When you want to upgrade to a Star ID outside of your renewal period.
  • When applying for your first license or ID with the ALEA.

You can essentially apply for REAL ID credentials at any time. If you choose to get an ID when your current license or ID is still valid, you will need to pay a replacement card fee. You do not have to pay an extra fee if you choose to get a secure ID instead of a standard card when getting your first license or renewing your card. In other words, REAL IDs cost the same as standard cards.

How to Apply for a REAL ID in Alabama

When you are ready to obtain a REAL ID driver license or identification card, you must visit an ALEA office in person. Applications are not accepted online, via mail or through any other alternative method. Furthermore, you cannot visit a county-operated licensing office, as only ALEA driver license exam offices are authorized to issue these credentials.

Obtaining a REAL ID in AL requires that you present your documentation and pay the required fees for your credentials. Remember, there are no tests specific to getting a secure credential. However, if you are applying for a driver's license REAL ID, you will need to pass any tests required for getting your license. For example, you may need to undergo a vision exam or road skills test. You may wish to schedule an appointment with an ALEA testing center if you are applying for a driver's license.

Note: Once you have your secure ID, you can renew it or request a duplicate online or through any other method provided for standard licenses or IDs. You only need to visit a driver's license office in person for your initial application and to submit name or address changes to your card in the future.