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Tennessee Real ID: Everything you need to know

Real IDs will be issued across Tennessee beginning on July 1, 2019. Here's what they are, and why you might want to get one before your current license expires.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee driver's licenses will have a new look starting July 1st.

The change will be subtle but important if you choose to upgrade your license to a Real ID.

So let's break it down.

What is a Real ID?

Essentially -- it's just a new driver's license with a gold star in the corner. The star signifies your license is up to standards with the REAL ID Act regulations that have slowly rolled in phases in the U.S. since 2005.

"It is to give more secure documents for people to enter certain federal facilities and to fly commercially within the United States," said Melissa Long, East Regional Manager for Driver Services.

What places does a Real ID get me into?

It serves as federal identification for federal facilities like the McGhee Tyson Air Guard base, nuclear facilities like the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and soon -- it'll be the only type of license accepted to get you onto a commercial airplane in the United States.

Do I need a Real ID?

No, it is not mandatory to obtain a Real ID in the state of Tennessee.

Can I fly on a plane without a Real ID?

Yes, if you have a passport. Starting October 1, 2020, TSA will not accept standard driver's licenses as identification to get you past security and onto your plane.

Real IDs will be the only licenses accepted.

If you don't have a Real ID, you'll have to bring your passport as identification.

Do I need to go get my Real ID right now?

No. "There's no need to rush in and change your license," said Long.

The state will begin issuing Real IDs on July 1, 2019. But the TSA will not enforce their use until October 1, 2020.

That's about a 15 month window to get it taken care of.

If I renew my standard license, will it become a Real ID?

No. You have to come get a Real ID in person and bring the proper documentation. However, all new licenses issued in the state of Tennessee after July 1 will be Real ID-compliant.

What do I need to bring with me to get my Real ID?

Bring one document proving your citizenship , one proving your social security number and name, and two forms of proof that you reside in Tennessee.

Your options for documents in those categories can be found here.

If you've ever changed your name, you will need to bring that documentation, too.

Do I have to bring my documents in if you already have them on file?

Yes. Tennessee has required the above documents to get a license since 2008. But the state asks you bring the hard copies of these documents again to make the process move faster.

Can I get a Real ID online?

No. You must come in person with all the documents listed in the question above.

Will I have to take a new picture?

Yes. It is a completely new license.

What does it cost to upgrade to a Real ID?

It costs the same as getting a duplicate license. That's $8 if it's your first time replacing a non-expired license, $12 if it's your second time doing so.

If you are getting a Tennessee license for the first time, there is no additional cost.

All new licenses issued after July 1, 2019 will be Real IDs.

For any other questions, head over to the state's Real ID website here.

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