NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Starts Oct. 1

Get Ready for REAL ID

Starting Oct. 1, NIH will no longer accept driver’s licenses or other forms of identification from visitors seeking to enter campus unless those credentials are compliant with the REAL ID Act. Congress passed the act in 2005; it established minimum security standards for state-issued licenses and identification cards. As a federal agency, NIH cannot admit visitors without an acceptable form of ID.

These same standards apply to NIH staff who forget their ID badge and must access NIH facilities as a visitor.

Patients, regardless of identification, will continue to be allowed on campus upon verification of their status on a protocol with the admissions office at the Clinical Center.

REAL ID-compliant forms of ID that will be acceptable for visitor admission to NIH facilities include:  

  • REAL ID Driver’s License or State Identification Card (generally, a star in the upper right corner of the credential will indicate it is REAL ID-compliant)
  • Passport or passport card
  • HSPD-12 PIV or CAC card
  • Permanent resident card
  • Federally Recognized, Tribal-Issued Photo ID
  • Canadian Provincial Driver’s License or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • USCIS Employment Authorization card (I-766)
  • Other less common documents (e.g., Merchant Mariner credential)

Some additional pointers for visitors entering NIH facilities starting Oct. 1: 

  • Look for the REAL ID star on your license to make sure the license is valid
  • Children under age 17 do not need ID if accompanied by guardian with a valid ID
  • Patient caregivers will need to have valid identification
  • NIH staff who forget their ID badge will need a REAL ID-compliant document to enter NIH facilities

Common reasons to obtain REAL ID include: 

  • You want to fly with only your state-issued ID (e.g., driver’s license)
  • You need to visit a secure facility, such as 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:

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

Driver’s licenses differ from state to state

REAL ID was implemented by each state’s department of motor vehicles. As a result, driver’s licenses and 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 corner. 

Maryland and D.C. are requiring all individuals who are eligible for REAL ID-compliant documents to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card. Maryland and D.C. 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 a non-REAL ID-compliant credential for driver’s licenses or identification cards that are not acceptable for federal purposes. 

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)