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Will your license fly? Kentucky's adoption of REAL ID lagging other states

A Kentucky REAL ID displays a black cutout star.
Kentucky Department of Transportation
A Kentucky REAL ID displays a black cutout star.

Kentucky is below the national average for obtaining a REAL ID ahead of a federal deadline that’s now one year away.

Only 28 percent of state's population has obtained a REAL ID which is a more secure driver's license or identification card that will be required by May 7, 2025 to board domestic flights, visit military bases, and enter certain federal buildings.

The national compliance rate is currently 54 percent, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Matt Cole, Commissioner of Vehicle Regulation, said the state’s compliance rate is only projected to reach 35-45%.

“Some states like Kentucky are a voluntary state, so you can choose the standard or the REAL ID," explained Cole. "In other states like Georgia, REAL ID is a mandatory credential.”

Kentuckians must apply for a REAL ID at one of the 32 regional transportation offices around the state. Applicants must also present the required documents, including the following:

One proof of identity (a birth certificate or passport)

Proof of Social Security number (original Social Security card or tax documents)

Two proofs of residency (a utility bill, a deed, car registration, or current driver's license)

A standard driver’s license can still be used after the enforcement date next May, but those cardholders will need to have a passport to fly in the U.S. and access restricted federal buildings.

REAL IDs aren’t limited to driver’s licenses and can also include a passport or military ID.

Real IDs have extra security features and were born out of federal law following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Kentucky offers two versions of all driving and ID cards: a standard or REAL ID. A REAL ID displays a black cutout star. A standard version displays the Kentucky Unbridled Spirit logo or the words "NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES."

Kentuckians can renew a driver's license up to six months before the printed expiration date. Cardholders who aren't within their renewal window but want a REAL ID may upgrade their standard card for $15. The new card will keep the same expiration date.

A four-year REAL ID driver's license is $24 and $48 for an eight-year credential. A standard, non-compliant four-year license is $21.50 while an eight-year license costs $43.

A Kentucky READ ID isn't valid for international travel.

Copyright 2024 WKU Public Radio

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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