The most recent REAL ID deadline, and what New Jersey drivers need to do to get one

New Jersey drivers must follow strict rules to get a REAL ID license by the federal deadline.

Listen 1:15
The REAL ID NJ driver's license has a white star in gold in the upper right corner. (N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission)

The REAL ID NJ driver's license has a white star in gold in the upper right corner. (N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission)

From Camden and Cherry Hill to Trenton and the Jersey Shore, what about life in New Jersey do you want WHYY News to cover? Let us know.

New Jersey began issuing REAL ID driver’s licenses five years ago, and the original deadline to get one was October of 2020. But the deadline has since been extended three times.

The most recent deadline, established by the Department of Homeland Security, is May 7, 2025.

“REAL ID is not required in New Jersey, you are not mandated to get one, but if you typically use your driver’s license to fly you’ll probably want a Real ID,” said William Connolly, the press secretary for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Tracy Noble, the public affairs manager for AAA Club Alliance, agreed. She said getting a REAL ID license makes sense if people travel by air and don’t want to carry their passport as identification.

“If they are someone who is simply a driver and they don’t travel frequently and they have a passport, then that’s a personal choice, whether they want to go through the steps to get a REAL ID or not,” she said.

After May 7, 2025, if you don’t have a REAL ID you will need a passport to board a commercial flight or enter a federal building in the United States.

The Standard NJ driver’s license does not have a star. (N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission)

Connolly said to get a REAL ID you must make an appointment on the MVC website.

“REAL ID is currently available at all MVC licensing centers, we are also issuing REAL ID at a variety of mobile unit events,” he said. “And most of the appointments at the mobile events are also available by scheduling through our website.”

Over the past few years getting a REAL ID appointment, especially in North and parts of Central Jersey, was challenging, but Connolly said that is no longer the case.

“We currently have a very broad capacity to issue REAL ID across the state, and there are same day and next day appointments available,” he said.

He noted the MVC is currently offering three thousand REAL ID appointments at twenty eight different licensing centers across the state, every day.

“As COVID has receded our capacity to issue documents and process customers has gone up dramatically,” he said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Connelly said those customers who need to renew their driver’s licenses in the next three months should consider whether they would like to get a REAL ID or not, and then follow up with an appointment.

In order  to qualify for a REAL ID, drivers must follow a complicated set of instructions.

Connolly said the best way to keep track of all of this is to visit the website and identify the required documents.

Noble said the decision about getting a REAL ID really comes down to frequent travelers.

“If their license is up for renewal and they’re going to be traveling, then by all means get the REAL ID,” she said.

What do you need to get a REAL ID license in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission requires two proofs of residential address, proof of social security number, and an additional six points of Identification.

In order to show two proofs of residential address, you need two of the following:

  • A valid N.J. driver license or non-driver identification card, or a Motor Vehicle Commission issued driver license renewal form (displaying residential address)
  • A utility or credit card bill issued in the past ninety days
  • An original, unexpired lease or rental agreement
  • A tax bill, statement or receipt, and/or any letter or correspondence received from the IRS or tax office within the past year
  • First class mail from any government agency in the past six months
  • If under 18, a statement from parent or guardian certifying address of applicant

To show proof of your Social Security number you need one of the following:

  • A Social Security Card (if you known your Social Security number but don’t have an actual card you can enter it on the REAL ID application and MVC will verify it electronically)
  • A pay stub with your name and full SSN
  • A W-2 or 1099 Form issued within the past year

You must also produce a total of six additional points of primary and secondary ID. For primary ID you will need one of the following:

  • An unexpired U.S. passport or passport card
  • A U.S. or U.S. Territory birth certificate certified copy filed with a state office of vital statistics or equivalent agency in the individual’s state of birth
  • A U.S. Department of State birth certificate (Form FS-545 or DS-1350)
  • A U.S. Department of State Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240)
  • A Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550, N-578, or N-570)
  • A Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561)
  • A Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) issued by USCIS (with expiration date)
  • An unexpired foreign passport with valid visa and I-94 (stamp or form version)
  • A photo employment authorization card (USCIS Form I-688B or I-766)
  • As secondary ID you will need to select two of the following:
  • An unexpired standard photo driver license from N.J. or any state, or U.S. Territory, and the District of Columbia
  • An unexpired standard non-driver identification card from NJ only
  • A Social Security card
  • A bank/credit union statement or record (within the past 60 days)
  • An ATM/debit card with printed name and applicant’s signature (ATM/debit card and bank statement cannot be submitted together)
  • A current health insurance card or prescription card displaying applicant’s name
  • A current employee identification card with pay stub
  • A state professional license
  • A N.J. public assistance card with photo (also known as an N.J. Social Services identification card)
  • A high school diploma, GED or college degree
  • A property tax statement, bill or receipt issued by an N.J. municipality
  • For N.J. high school students: a waiver certificate for the written portion of the driver’s test
  • A Veterans Administration universal access photo identification card
  • An unexpired federal government employee driver license
  • An unexpired federal government employee photo identification card
  • U.S. military discharge papers (Form DD-214)
  • An FAA pilot license
  • A U.S. school photo identification card with transcript or school records
  • A U.S. college photo identification card with transcript
  • A legal name change court order signed by a judge or court clerk
  • A civil marriage or civil union certificate or divorce decree
  • U.S. adoption papers
  • A current U.S. military photo identification card or a current U.S. military dependent card or a
  • A U.S. military photo retiree card
  • An NJ firearm purchaser card
  • An unexpired REAL ID driver license, non-driver identification card, or probationary license from any state, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal