Changes to Visitor ID Policy

​​​​​​​​As of May 3, 2023, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will no longer accept identification credentials that fail to meet the minimum requirements and issuance standards for federal recognition per the REAL ID Act of 2005. The NIH, in its role as a federal agency, must adhere to the standards identified in the Act for allowing visitors to access NIH facilities. 

The REAL ID Act of 2005 established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, such as NIH, from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards that do not meet these standards as of May 3, 2023. 

Common reasons to obtain REAL ID include:

  1. You want to fly commercially with only your state-issued ID (e.g., driver's license)
  2. You need to visit a secure facility, such as the NIH, and do not have a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card, passport, or another approved ID

Reasons you may not need a REAL ID include:

  1. You only need your ID for purposes of identification and have another form of ID (e.g., PIV card or U.S. Passport) for accessing federal facilities like NIH
  2. You do not mind bringing your passport along when you fly or visit federal facilities starting May 3, 2023. 

REAL ID was implemented by each state's department of motor vehicles. As a result, driver's licenses and the identification cards are not uniform in appearance across states. However, all REAL ID-compliant state driver's licenses will have a star imprinted in the upper right-hand corner to signify it is REAL ID-compliant. Additionally, the states chose how to apply REAL ID measures to the entire state population for federal compliance. ​ 

Maryland and DC require all individuals who are eligible for REAL ID-compliant documents to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or identification card. Maryland and DC offer “limited use" credentials, which are not acceptable for flying domestically in the United States or for entering an NIH facility.  Virginia allows its residents the option to obtain a REAL ID-compliant credential, which can be used to enter an NIH facility. Virginia also allows the issuance of a non-REAL ID-compliant credential for driver's licenses or identification cards that is not acceptable for federal purposes. ​


On December 5, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension of the REAL ID full enforcement deadline to May 7, 2025. Learn more about the REAL ID Extension.​