Passports, Real IDs, and Birth Certificates

What you need to know about travel documents – brought to you by VitalChek.

With the implementation of Real ID, it’s important to be informed about the necessary documents and IDs needed to travel both domestically and internationally. Make sure you obtain the proper identification, and know what other travel documents may be required while planning your itinerary. You can learn more about important travel documents by visiting our sister site OfficialTravelDocuments.com.


What’s the difference between passports, Real IDs, and birth certificates?

A birth certificate is an official record of a person’s birth, and is typically the first piece of identification we receive. Birth certificates are issued by the vital records office in the city, county or state where a person was born, and are used for a number of reasons including to verify citizenship and to obtain a photo ID.

A Real ID is basically an enhanced state-issued photo ID, which can be used as official identification for boarding commercial domestic flights, gaining entry into federal facilities (beginning October 1, 2020), and for standard ID/driver’s license purposes. Real IDs are federally regulated, but are issued at the state level. If your state is not yet Real ID compliant, or you choose not to upgrade to a Real ID, you will need to use your passport as your official ID for boarding commercial flights or entering federal facilities. You can learn if your state is Real ID compliant here.

A passport is a federally-issued form of photo ID accepted by countries around the world when traveling internationally. A valid passport also grants you access to federal facilities and to board both domestic and international commercial flights. If applying for your first passport, you will most likely need a certified copy of your birth certificate.


Is a driver’s license the same as a Real ID?

No, but a Real ID is essentially an upgraded version of your driver’s license. Unlike previously issued driver’s licenses, a Real ID is federally regulated but issued and managed at the state level. And yes, it still functions as your driver’s license, providing proof of your right to operate a vehicle! In the near future (currently published as October 1, 2020), you will need a passport, or Real ID upgrade to your driver’s license, to board domestic commercial flights or to enter any federal facility.


Do I really need a passport or Real ID? Can I just use my birth certificate for air travel, cruises, or travel to Canada and Mexico?

Due to multiple changes in regulations, birth certificates are no longer accepted as sole proof of identity for air travel, most cruise vacations, and travel to/from Canada and Mexico. To travel out of the United States, you will need a passport or Real ID depending on your final destination. Learn more on our blog about Real ID and visit Official Travel Documents for the latest in Real ID requirements, news and updates.


Is a birth certificate required to get a Real ID or passport?

Usually, but not always. In some cases, you may be able to present other forms of accepted identification. For Real ID upgrades to your current driver’s license, go to your state’s website for more information on the specific requirements to obtain a Real ID. For passports, a birth certificate is the most common way to provide proof of citizenship. You can read the full list of requirements on the official US Government website about passports.


How do I know if my state is Real ID compliant? What do I need to get a Real ID?

To find out if your state is Real ID compliant, go to the Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID page. If you have questions on how to get a Real ID and to understand the requirements in your state, find your nearest DMV office by using the Department of Motor Vehicle Office Finder here.


Now that I have my birth certificate, and other necessary proofs of identification, how can I get my passport in a hurry?

For general information and for passport orders, standard or expedited, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s passport services site.

You may also wish to check out one of the professional passport expediting services* below. As long as you have your certified copy of your birth certificate, you can begin the application process.

*Disclaimer statement: VitalChek is not responsible for orders placed through third-party services.

Still need a certified birth certificate copy? Order here on VitalChek.com in just a few minutes, and receive it typically in just a few days.


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Now that you’re ready to take that trip you’ve always dreamed of, what are you waiting for? Cruise in the Caribbean, backpack across Europe, go on a safari in Africa, or surf in Australia – the world is your playground! Need a birth certificate to get a passport?

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