How to get your federally-mandated “Real ID” in Tennessee


MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – If you want to fly on an airplane or enter a federal building in Tennessee, you’ll need a “Real ID.” 

A federal mandate was approved in 2005, but Tennessee started offering it July 1st. The Real ID is designed to make driver’s licenses harder to forge. 

The process may seem a little overwhelming at first, but as long as you gather the correct documents, it should be a breeze. 

“I needed a Real ID because I do travel a lot,” said Cassandra Turner, who just got her Real ID. 

A Real ID is not required, but you will need the upgraded ID to fly on airplanes and enter federal buildings, such as federal courthouses, or military bases. The federal government mandated this in 2005 and all states have to comply by October 2020. Tennessee started offering Real IDs July 1st.

A passport and regular driver’s license are sufficient to meet federal standards, but you can upgrade your license to make it easier. 

If you have a regular Tennessee driver’s license, about to expire or not, and you want to upgrade it to a Real ID, you’ll need to go to a driver’s license center in person and bring documents to prove your residency and who you are. 

For example, you can bring a birth certificate, social security card, current utility bill, and your regular driver’s license. You have to bring a total of four documents with you to upgrade your ID. It costs between $8 and $12 depending on the type of license you need. 

Yesenia Uvaldo, who tried to get a Real ID said, “I have to come back again. (Why do you have to come back again?) Because I was missing some documents.”

“You can go online and pay but you have to go in to take your picture and receive your Real ID, so that’s what’s time-consuming,” said Turner. 

At a busy driver’s license center on Summer Avenue, the supervisor says things have been running smoothly. The average wait time is 30 minutes to an hour according to folks in line. Residents who are upgrading their licenses say bringing the proper documents is key to getting in and out as fast as possible. 

“Check online what you need to make sure that when you come, it’ll be a smooth and easy transition,” Turner said. 

If you have a passport or other TSA-acceptable documents, you don’t need to get a Real ID driver’s license, until it’s time to renew your license. 

For a complete list of documents to choose from if you want to get a Real ID in Tennessee, CLICK HERE.

Mississippi started issuing Real IDs in January 2018. CLICK HERE for Mississippi requirements.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Real IDs in Arkansas.

©TEGNA Inc. 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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