By Beth Stickney
Q&A about Maine BMV’s REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards
Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) offers two types of driver’s licenses or state identification cards (called “credentials” below): standard Maine credentials – which are the normal driver’s licenses or ID cards that Maine has issued for decades, and REAL ID credentials, available since 2019, that comply with the federal REAL ID law.
Q. What is a REAL ID credential for?
A. As of May 3, 2023, only specific types of identification will be acceptable to fly on domestic airline flights or enter restricted federal facilities, such as a military base. A REAL ID credential from Maine’s BMV will be accepted, but Maine BMV’s standard credentials will not be.
A standard Maine credential will still be acceptable to:
- Drive (only with a driver’s license, not a state ID card)
- Enter federal immigration offices such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in South Portland, the USCIS asylum office or the Immigration Court in Boston, or other federal buildings that don’t ask for IDs, like post offices
- Vote or register to vote in Maine, if you are a U.S. citizen
- Apply for or receive federal benefits or access health services
- Cash checks
- Rent a car
- Buy alcohol or tobacco
Q, Do I actually need a REAL ID credential?
A. Not necessarily. You’ll still be able to take domestic airline flights or enter restricted federal facilities even after May 2, 2023, if you have one of these unexpired identity documents:
- U.S. passport or passport card
- Passport issued by a foreign government
- Permanent resident card (“green card”)
- Employment Authorization (work permit) card issued by USCIS
- Canadian Driver’s license or First Nations member identification card
- Any other document on this list: www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification
Q. I don’t have a passport. Could I use a REAL ID credential from Maine’s BMV to fly to another country?
A. No. To travel internationally, you need an unexpired passport from the U.S. or your home country, or, if you were ever granted refugee or asylee status here, an unexpired U.S. Refugee Travel Document.
Q. Could I use a REAL ID credential to travel to Canada and reenter the U.S.?
A. No. Flying, driving, or taking any other form of transportation to Canada is international travel.
Q. I’m an asylum seeker. My young children don’t have work permits. Will they need a REAL ID credential to take a domestic flight?
Children under age 18 won’t need to show an ID while traveling with an adult who has acceptable identification. See the question about minors at www.tsa.gov/real-id.
Q. Are all immigrants able to get a REAL ID credential if they want one?
A. No. To be eligible for a REAL ID credential, you must:
- be a U.S. citizen,
- be a Permanent or Conditional Permanent Resident (with the I-551 card),
- have refugee or asylee status,
- have filed an application for asylum or permanent residency that is still pending,
- have Temporary Protected Status or have an application for TPS that is still pending,
- have deferred action or DACA status,
- have an unexpired nonimmigrant visa, or
- be an Afghan, paroled into the U.S. on or after July 31, 2021.
Q. I’m an asylum seeker who entered over the southern border. I’m still waiting for my case to show up in the court system. Can I get a REAL ID credential?
A. No. You won’t be eligible for a REAL ID until your asylum application has been filed. Reminder: Even after the REAL ID law takes effect on May 3, 2023, a standard Maine credential will be acceptable identification for most situations. To fly domestically or enter immigration offices, your asylum-based work permit will be all you need.
Q. I’m an asylum seeker who was paroled into the U.S. at the southern border. Can I get a REAL ID credential?
A. No. Except for some Afghans, parole does not make a person eligible for a REAL ID credential. You’ll become eligible once you’ve applied for asylum. See the reminder in the previous answer.