I applied for a Real ID today. Having done so, I’m not entirely sure why I did so. Next October, everyone will need a Real ID to fly. Your normal driver’s license will no longer get you pass TSA. Alternatively, if you have a passport that will work too. I have a passport, so there was no real reason for me to get a Real ID. A Real ID allows you to fly only on domestic flights, while a passport permits both domestic and international flying. A Real ID won’t allow you to even drive to Canada. A Real ID does allow you access to military bases and Federal courthouses. So does a passport. I no longer need to go to military bases and I’ve never been in a Federal courthouse. I just hope that by applying for a Real ID, I haven’t opened myself up to Federal jury selection. A Real ID is also required to enter a nuclear power plant. This has not been a big priority of mine.
Beyond its apparent redundancy and uselessness, a Real ID is harder to get than a passport. For my passport, all I needed to show was my driver’s license and birth certificate. I’ve had a driver’s license since I was a teenager and I ordered my birth certificate online with no more ID than a credit card. For my Real ID, I flashed my license and passport and then I had to produce my social security card. I also had to have two other forms of “ID”, which in my case was a utility bill and a property tax receipt. Various fallback alternatives are also accepted. In lieu of the passport, a birth certificate, even one acquired online will do. In lieu of the social security card, any tax document that has your social on it will do. The last two documents that are supposed to determine your residency are the easiest to get. I could have substituted my tax receipt with a voter registration card. One that says on it that it is not for ID purposes or even a court summons. That last one would have been a hoot.
So, a Real ID is not as good as a passport. It is harder to get than a passport, but that added difficulty, all in the name of additional security is laughably easy to circumvent. It makes for the perfect latest addition to the kabuki theater that passes for TSA screening. All of which begs my original question, what is a Real ID good for? The bottom line is that it is cheaper, $12 versus $35 for a passport, but the passport lasts twice as long. If you ask me, I question if Real ID is really worth that difference.