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Massachusetts Identification (ID) Requirements

To get a learner's permit, driver’s license, or Mass ID in Massachusetts, you’ll need to identification documents first. Learn what documents you can use below.

You’ll also need to decide between a Standard driver’s license/ID or a REAL ID driver’s license/ID. REAL ID is a federal ID that you can use to fly within the United States or enter federal buildings beginning May 7, 2025. To get one, you’ll need to provide additional documentation and come into an RMV service center. Learn more about REAL ID and whether or not you need one below.

Starting July 1, 2023 eligible residents in Massachusetts can obtain a Standard (Class D or M) driver's license, regardless of immigration status, under the Work and Family Mobility Act. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/wfma.

Table of Contents

Are you REAL ID ready?

On May 7, 2025, U.S. travelers must be REAL ID compliant to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities.

REAL ID or a Standard driver’s license/ID?

A REAL ID is a Federal Security Standard for IDs that was created in 2005 as a result of increased federal security measures after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Beginning May 7, 2025, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel and to enter certain federal facilities.

A Standard credential is a valid form of for driving or identification purposes but is not accepted for federal purposes.

Do I have a choice of driver license/ID types?

Whether you are getting a new driver's license/ID or renewing your existing credential, the first decision you’ll need to make is, Standard driver’s license/ID or REAL ID driver's license/ID?

The cost to obtain a REAL or Standard driver's license/ID card is the same.

REAL ID v Standard Comparison

What is a Standard driver's license/ID?

  • Is a valid driver’s license or identification card
  • Is not valid as a form of federal ID
  • Can be renewed online without going to the RMV
  • Has “NOT FOR FEDERAL ID” displayed on the card

What is a REAL ID driver's license/ID?

  • Is a valid driver’s license or identification card
  • Is valid as a form of federal ID
  • Requires an in-person visit
  • Has a star displayed on the document to indicate that is a federally compliant card

Documents and Applications that Cannot be Accepted

The RMV reserves the right to not accept any application if it has a good faith reason* to believe any of the following:

  • Any document presented is not genuine or has been altered, defaced, or rendered unreadable to such an extent that it cannot be relied on.
  • Any document contains a photograph or photoimage of the applicant that bears little or no resemblance to the applicant.
  • The applicant is not the individual represented in the application and supporting documents.
  • The applicant does not satisfy the requirement for SSN, lawful presence/date of birth, or Massachusetts residency.
  • The applicant has presented an SSN that does not validate as being issued to him/her, or was not obtained in a lawful manner from the U.S. Social Security Administration.

*A “good faith reason” is one that is based on objective facts and observations, such as statements from the applicant, or information obtained from usually reliable sources.

The Registry will initiate electronic checks for most identification documents with national and state databases. This process provides validity responses back to the RMV within seconds for the vast majority. However, some checks will require additional time for research or may be subject to manual review. This does not mean that your transaction has been denied. It simply means the verifying information is not readily available and additional time is required. These cases are generally resolved within three to five business days, but in rare occasions may be up to twenty days. Your Customer Service Representative will provide you with additional instructions.

Review of Documents and Applications that are Not Accepted

If one or more of the documents you present when applying for a driver’s license, learner’s permit, or ID card is not accepted and your transaction is not processed because you do not have other acceptable documents with you, you have several options, as described in the next section.

Initial Decision and Your Options

After reviewing your documents, if the RMV Service Center Representative rejects your documents, or if your documents do not pass the electronic check, you may choose to correct the problem, such as by obtaining the appropriate documents and returning later with a new application. You may also seek further review by a supervisor. If the electronic checks require additional time for research, the Customer Service Center Representative will provide you with additional instructions. If the RMV cannot process your application, you will be provided a form indicating the reason(s). This is the Application Status Letter. You may appeal the RMV’s final decision within ten days of being denied.

Penalties for Presenting Fraudulent Documents

Severe penalties are imposed on a person who violates the law in obtaining or possessing a driver’s license, learner’s permit, or ID card. Following is a brief description of some of those penalties.

  • Whoever loans or knowingly permits his or her license or learner’s permit to operate motor vehicles to be used by any person, or whoever makes false statements in an application for such a license or learner’s permit, or whoever knowingly makes any false statements in an application for registration of a motor vehicle, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $20 nor more than $200 dollars or by imprisonment for not less than two weeks nor more than two years or both (MGL c.90, §24).
  • Whoever falsely makes, steals, alters, forges, or counterfeits or procures or helps another falsely make, steal, alter, forge, or counterfeit a learner’s permit, a license to operate motor vehicles, or an ID card or whoever has or uses such a permit, license, or ID card may be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment in a state prison for up to five years or in a jail or house of correction for not more than two years (M.G.L. c.90, §24B).
  • Anyone who falsely impersonates the person named in the application for a license or learner’s permit, or anyone who procures or helps another to falsely impersonate the person named in the application, or who uses a name other than his or her own to falsely obtain such a license, or whoever possesses or uses a license or permit to operate a motor vehicle that was obtained in such a manner shall be subject to the penalties described in MGL c.90, §24B. Whoever is convicted of a violation of MGL c.90, §24B, shall also have his or her license, or right to operate, suspended for a minimum of one year.

Any person who swears or affirms falsely in regard to any matter or thing respecting which an oath or affirmation is required by the RMV or by MGL c. 90 shall be deemed guilty of perjury (MGL c.90, §28). In addition, falsification of any information provided to obtain, renew, transfer, or upgrade a driver’s license or learner’s permit may result in a suspension of driving privileges.

Start your application online

Get Ready Online!  All drivers license and ID transactions can be started online to save time.

You can save time at an RMV Service Center by starting any driver's license or ID transaction online. You can even finish some online.

If you can’t finish online, at the end of the application you’ll get a summary of your application and a list of documents you’ll need to bring to a service center.

Use the RMV's Online Service Center to:

  • Find out what you need, including required documents, to complete transactions either online or in person
  • Check your eligibility for completely processing a transaction online and avoid going to the RMV
  • Complete many transactions online, and start other ones prior to visiting a service center
  • Save time and be successful in one trip when you need to visit an RMV location

Note: You can renew your driver's license/ID up to one year in advance of your expiration date.

Additional Resources

Required identification documentation: Overview

Once you’ve decided if you want a REAL ID or Standard driver’s license/ID, get the right documents together. You’ll need to prove your:

REAL ID, Mass ID, CDL

  • U.S. citizenship or lawful presence
  • Social Security number
  • Massachusetts residency

For a complete list of acceptable documents, see the REAL ID, Standard CDL, & Standard ID Card Documents Checklist.

Standard- Driver’s License

  • Proof of identity, date of birth
  • Social security number status
  • Massachusetts residency

For a complete list of acceptable documents, see the Standard Class D or M Driver’s License Documents Checklist.

All documents must be originals, photocopies and laminated documents will not be accepted.

A document cannot be used to prove more than one requirement.

NAME MUST MATCH for REAL ID

If your current name doesn’t match the one that appears on your lawful presence document(s), you must prove your legal name change in order to qualify for a REAL ID driver’s license/ID card. If multiple name changes, documentation for each name change must be provided. You will need to provide one or more of the following to prove your name change(s):

  • Marriage Certificate (must be issued from the municipality)
  • Divorce Decree
  • Court Document

For a Standard driver’s license/ID card, a proof of name change document is not required.

You can start any driver’s license or ID transaction online. Starting online means you'll spend less time at an RMV Service Center. 

Acceptable Identification Document Checklists

The Acceptable Identification Document Checklist is available in multiple languages.

Additional Resources

REAL ID, Mass ID, CDL Acceptable ID Checklist

Standard Driver's License Acceptable ID Checklist

Additional Resources

Other acceptable forms of federal ID for flights

You may also use an active passport, passport card, or even a Global Entry card to fly domestically. You’ll also be able to use these TSA-approved documents to get through airport security:

  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo IDs
  • Transportation worker identification credentials
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner credentials

Additional Resources

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