“Real ID” Act may soon complicate RVers’ lives


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

October 1, 2020, could be a critical date for fulltime RVers. On that not-too-distant date, anyone wanting access into most commercial airports, federal buildings or military bases will need to have a federally approved identification. Got a U.S. passport? You’re set. For U.S. residents, if you don’t have a passport, you’ll need an approved state-issued driver’s license or ID card. But beware, not every driver’s license will meet the test.

It all hails back to a federal law passed in 2005, the “REAL ID Act,” which was established to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” It’s taken a long time for all the states to come in-line with these federal standards, and since there are 50 states (and a handful of other jurisdictions), each with its own way of looking at things, it can be a bit difficult. But suffice to say, if you don’t have a license or ID that meets Uncle Sam’s standards, you won’t be getting into the airport or other federally controlled I.D.-required areas without one.

“Real ID” compliance shown with gold star

How do you know if your driver’s license or ID card is “Real ID” compliant? In most instances, your license or ID will have a gold star on it. That’s the federal shorthand for compliance. A few states have met the compliance requirements but, for whatever reason, don’t put a gold star on the license. Nicely confusing, eh? In that case, you’ll need to contact the issuing state’s DMV to inquire if you meet “Real ID” compliance or not.

Now here’s a big giveaway that your license IS NOT “Real ID” compliant: Ones that are marked “Not for Federal Identification” or “Federal Limits Apply” are not compliant. Those IDs will definitely keep you out of airports and other controlled facilities come October 2020.

So what’s the big deal for fulltime RVers? To apply for a “Real ID,” proof of residence is required. For most of the states, having your mail delivered to a private mailbox service or post office box DOES NOT meet the requirements of “proof of residence.” Step into most any state’s DMV office and apply for one of these IDs and you’ll likely be asked to provide two proofs of residence. Often this translates to a rent receipt, a property tax statement, or a utility bill, with a valid residential address printed on the chit. If you’re a fulltiming RVer, it’s not likely you’ll have these proofs.

What’s to be done? Nevada is one state that recognizes the predicament. DMV officials will be happy to issue a Real ID, provided you can meet the residency test by providing a rent receipt from an RV park, showing both a street address and site number. But here’s the hang – you’ll need to have a receipt for at least a 30-day continuous stay. That can be pretty spendy and a hard lump to swallow for boondocking fans.

But you’re still not over the hurdle – Nevada (like many states) requires TWO proofs. What to do for the other? That’s where it can get sticky. The only suggestion we can make is transfer your cell phone bill, your credit card or bank statement address to the RV park for that time period. Arizona is one state that allows just one “proof” statement and allows you to sign an affidavit of residency to take care of the other one.

Sad to say, there’s no clear-cut and easy answer to many of the difficulties raised. With differing states and differing government “personalities,” you’ll need to do your own research for whatever state it is you call “home.” And with that date coming up, and considering the nature of bureaucracy, you’d best get started now.

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Thomas Becher

Wonder if they’d look at my tablet screen to verify my address? Pay my electric and gas and credit cards online. Get no mail that way. Stay ahead of my bills rather than wait for bills that may never catch up to me.

Russell Grassl

My WI drivers license has the gold star issued in 2013, but my wife’s has a black star issued in 2016. Any difference?

Morgan Borrowman

I’m Canadian and travel with a Canadian Passport and British Columbia Enhanced drivers license which allows me to cross the border without a passport. Are these acceptable or do I just stay home and quit contributing my hard earned money to the US economy?

Barbara Blehm

We’re getting our license in Arizona and were told we have to have 2 forms of mail addressed to us to prove our residency.


Sooooo very tired about this “real ID” scare tactic being used to simply get more money out of our pockets. For God’s sake, just get a US Passport and be done with all this Real ID garbage. If you aren’t a US citizen, well then, become one … then get a US Passport.

Kerry w

I wonder if there’s a workaround, like say, somebody buys an acre of land and then rents out one foot squares of it to people on a monthly basis that would give them a Rental receipt of where they live. If they mow that acre then they could also charge lawn maintenance as a second receipt.

John Harpel

RE: real ID. SD has the star on driver license. Americas Mailbox in Box Elder South Dakota can help establish permanent residency or domicile for full time RVers. It works for us and several thousand other RVers.

Lydia Bishop

As a woman with a complex “provenance” on my name and identity, I was unable to get an enhanced DL. My first husband was German, and when he became a citizen he changed his name. So the provenance includes my birth certificate name, the name I took when I married my first husband and then adopting his new surname, a divorce. WA state dept. of licensing expected copies of birth, marriage and my first husband’s naturalized name, proof of his citizenship, and my name change and divorce. This all took place in California. Without those documents WA state wouldn’t issue me an enhanced DL. I got my US passport in January, no questions asked. Took only two weeks. WTF Washington State? WTF?

Don Baker

I recently had some issues when trying to get a car loan and have had issues in the past year with a financial institution (retirement account) in using my Americas Mailbox address as my permanent address. I was required to have a bricks and mortar address (in this case my sons address). I have a South Dakota DL and it has the star in the upper right corner. If this is considered a legal address for the Federal Government why should this be an issue?
Has anyone else had similar issues and how were you able to solve?

chris p hemstead

Interesting suggestion about the cell phone bill. Who gets a paper phone bill?

frater jason

The time to get a Real ID is *before* one goes fulltime.

Patrick Granahan

When I moved to North Carolina the drivers license authority explained this “star” requirement. I could elect to get a drivers license without a star but was told without the
star I would not be able to fly commercially or get into airports and some other facilities.
Not wanting to argue the point I go the star…..no big deal….no extra charge…don’t fight
City Hall.

JC Travel Stories

Arriving at the Rapid City, South Dakota DMV to renew my SD driver’s license I was told I’d need two pieces of paper with my home address. I thought I was covered because I had my car registration and my expired SD driver’s license … both had my address listed. NOPE! The driver’s license (With the Federal Gold Star) can’t be used. Because its expired? NO. You can’t use your driver’s license to ID yourself at the DMV. WHAT!!! What else can I use? A fishing license. One mile away I got a SD fishing license at the Walmart using my expired SD Driver’s license as proof of residency. It worked. Dumb rules easily outsmarted.

Mike in Texas

My TX license (Issued in 2016) is missing the Gold Star. It has USA over TX in the top right corner. Wouldn’t someone be able to go the local office supply store and buy their own supply of Gold Star stickers, like any 1st or 2nd grade educator?

Just wondering.

Mike Sherman

Looks like getting a passport might be easier.

Tommy Molnar

We live in Nevada. I recently gave in and got one of these “official” driver’s licenses. What a pain in the butt. And for what? How soon before they outlaw paper money?

Bob Godfrey

Although we use a mail forwarding service as so many RVers do, we also use a relative’s permanent home address and made up a lease (rental) agreement for their home in order to fulfill this requirement even though we never actually live there. It works. If anyone asks we simply tell them we rent a room there. You can buy a lease agreement form at any office supply store or download from the internet.

Steve Sims

When I was a kid we would laugh at those old war movies where the Nazis insisted on “Papers, please.” for travelers.
Now our world is that reality.


“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”


A military ID Card (active duty, reserve, or retired) is also a valid form of federal identification.