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It’s gold star time — beginning Oct. 1, 2020, West Virginians will need to have a gold star on their driver’s license to go through airport security for a commercial airline flight.

The gold star converts your driver’s license into what is called a REAL ID for certain federal purposes. The alternatives of a passport, federal government PIV card or military ID will work for the same purpose.

A REAL ID will also be needed to go through security in certain federal facilities/buildings, military bases or nuclear power plants as of Oct. 1.

There are exceptions where the REAL ID is not needed, such as Social Security, Veterans Administration and post offices and national parks. Some other federal facilities do not require identification to enter.

When a driver’s license needs to be renewed, West Virginians have the choice of a REAL ID or the standard type of driver’s license, which will not be usable for identification after Oct. 1 for flights, entering federal or military facilities, etc.

The REAL ID costs an additional $10 and also requires two documents, such as current utility bills, to show proof of West Virginia residency (the non-federal version requires only one). Further, either type of license also requires proof of identity (through a birth certificate or passport) and proof of your Social Security number.

If a person may have neglected to choose the REAL ID when the last renewal was made but now realizes it will be needed, the Department of Motor Vehicles can provide a new license after the proper documents and fees are provided.

Although these are state requirements, the overall program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and is intended to make it more difficult for terrorists to acquire and use fraudulent identification.

Online information on the REAL ID requirements is available at

For more assistance with this or other legal issues, contact the West Virginia Senior Legal Aid hotline at 800–229-5068. To be eligible for this free service, the caller must be age 60 or over and a West Virginia resident.