Real ID: Tennessee Laws and Why You Need It

Tennessee has implemented the Real ID program to enhance security and comply with federal regulations. If you’re a Tennessee resident, it’s important to understand what Real ID is and why you need it. 

What Is Real ID, and Do I Need One in Tennessee?

Real ID is a federal program established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to set minimum security standards for licenses and identification cards. 

A Real ID-compliant license contains specific security features and requires applicants to provide additional documentation to prove their identity, lawful status in the U.S., and more.

Beginning May 7, 2025, you must have a Real ID in Tennessee to access certain federal buildings and board commercial flights. 

How to Get a Real ID in Tennessee

You’ll need to follow a specific process to obtain a Real ID in Tennessee. Here is an outline of the steps involved: 

Where to Apply

To apply for a Real ID, you must complete the process physically. If you already have a license, you can get one at a Driver Services Center or at the two express centers, in Nashville and Memphis. 

You can get a Real ID at the Driver Services Centers if you don’t already have a license. 

Documents Requirements

The documents required to get a Real ID include the following: 

  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship
  • Proof of your social security number 
  • Two proofs of Tennessee Residency

Costs Associated with Real ID

If it’s your first time getting a Real ID, it will cost you $28. There is an additional fee if you’re renewing, and it’s outside your renewal period. 

Deadlines to Remember

The most important deadline to remember is May 7, 2025, which is when everyone who needs to access Federal buildings, enter nuclear facilities, or take commercial flights should have a Real ID. 

Real ID Concerns

Some Real ID concerns include: 

  • Some individuals worry about extensive document collection. 
  • There are concerns about the system’s vulnerability to hacking. 
  • The additional fees can pose an issue to those with financial challenges. 
  • The rules vary from state to state and can be confusing. 

What if I Don’t Have a Real ID?

If you don’t have a Real ID after the deadline, you may face limitations for requirements, as well as penalties. You won’t be able to travel on domestic flights and must present a passport instead. You also can’t access federal facilities such as military bases and nuclear power plants. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few frequently asked questions: 

Can I still fly in the U.S. without a Real ID?

Yes, you can still fly in the U.S. without a Real ID. But, after the deadline, you must present a passport or other form of approved I.D.

What can I use to fly if I don’t have a Real ID?

If you don’t have a Real ID, you can use a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, DHS Trusted Traveler Card, or Enhance Driver’s License. 

Is a Tennessee driver’s license a REAL ID?

It can be a Real ID if it was issued by a Real ID-compliant driver’s license agency and meets some requirements set by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, Real ID is a federal program to enhance the security and reliability of state-issued identification documents. If you live in Tennessee, you should have one by May 7, 2025. Otherwise, you may face limitations when flying or entering federal buildings.