(NEXSTAR) — Soon, if you want to fly from Ohio to anywhere in the U.S. or visit certain federal buildings, you’ll be required to have a small feature on your driver’s license or identification card — a star. And though the federal deadline to have that star on your ID is months away, many officials recommend starting the process sooner rather than later.

An Ohio REAL ID. (Courtesy Photo/Ohio BMV)

That star, which can have five different appearances, signifies that your driver’s license or state-issued identification card, is a REAL ID.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a special commission recommended that the federal government enact certain minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards. In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to do just that.

As part of the REAL ID Act, federal agencies, like TSA, are prohibited from accepting Ohio and other state-issued IDs that don’t meet the federal minimum standards, according to the Department of Homeland Security. This means that if you don’t have a REAL ID by the current federal deadline of May 3, 2023, you won’t be able to fly domestically, visit certain federal facilities, or enter a nuclear power plant.

While you still have over 200 days to get a REAL ID, here are a few things you should know.

What documents do Ohioans need to get a REAL ID?

When the REAL ID Act first passed, states required different types of documents to obtain a driver’s license, with some wanting more than others.

Thankfully, Ohio now requires, at minimum, that applicants provide the same information as all other states:

  • Proof of legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of legal residency
  • Two forms showing your Ohio street address
  • Proof of name change (if applicable)

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles shared a document that outlines all of the acceptable documents to get a REAL ID, and which of the six requirements they cover. This includes birth certificates, a U.S. passport, letters sent by the Ohio BMV and even Ohio tax filings or a utility bill. It also has an online checklist that lets you confirm you have the right documents in hand.

People in Ohio can renew their driver’s license as a REAL ID by bringing those documents in-person to a local BMV office. However, the state also started allowing online renewal in 2021.

Can Ohioans fly without a REAL ID?

People in Ohio can, until the federal deadline of May 3, 2023.

At that point, TSA says every traveler flying within the U.S. will need to present a REAL ID-compliant identification card. The TSA also accepts state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, but Ohio does not offer those as of October 2022.

Ohioans who don’t have a REAL ID can use other acceptable forms like a valid passport or U.S. military ID. TSA lists other forms of ID that can also be used to board a plane.

When do I need to apply for a REAL ID to meet the deadline?

While you still have roughly eight months before you’ll need a REAL ID to fly or visit federal facilities, officials throughout the country recommend you get it sooner rather than later.

If your license is set to expire in the next few months, however, most state-level officials say you can wait until closer to that date. The Ohio BMV did encourage people in the state to start the process early, which will help them avoid a rush of REAL ID applicants some officials believe they’ll see next spring.

The Ohio BMV said it will deliver the state’s version of REAL IDs by mail, and it will arrive in a plain, white envelope. The new ID should arrive within 35 days of ordering a renewal, but if not, the BMV has an online portal to check on the status of a card.

In the meantime, the local BMV office will issue you an interim identification form which you should carry like a regular driver’s license. That form can cover you for 60 days while you wait for your Ohio REAL ID.

There is also a chance you already have a REAL ID-compliant identification card. If you have an Ohio card that has a black star in the upper right corner, you are already the proud owner of a REAL ID.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has set the national deadline to get a REAL ID as May 3, 2023.