Real ID Act

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By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security

Nearly two million Americans board airplanes on a daily basis. The idea of needing a passport for domestic travel has likely never crossed most people’s minds – in fact only around 40 percent of Americans even have a passport – but all of that may change once we see the full enforcement of the REAL ID Act.

The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 as a direct result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The Act enforced the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

Passport For Domestic Travel Is A Possibility

The Act established the minimum security requirements for all state-issued driver’s licenses and other identification documents, and it outlaws any federal entity from accepting licenses and ID cards that do not meet the new REAL ID standards. Soon, only REAL ID-compliant identification will be accepted for entry into federal facilities and at TSA airport screening stations; that means the only other viable option for travelers is a passport for domestic travel.

The states have made progress on REAL ID Act compliance, but there are still quite a few holdouts.

REAL ID act passport for domestic travel

REAL ID Act: State of the States

The states in green above are currently compliant with the REAL ID act. However, the states in yellow and blue are a different story. The states in yellow have been granted a temporary stay on their compliance – but the extension is only for a matter of months. The states in blue have not yet been granted an extension and it’s unclear as to when they’ll become compliant. So, it’s a real possibility that – in 2018 – thousands of passengers will be denied boarding a domestic flight because their driver’s licenses will not be compliant with the REAL ID Act.

Here is how the official Department of Homeland Security lays out the new rules:

“Starting January 22, 2018, passengers who have driver’s licenses issued by a state that is not yet compliant with REAL ID and that has not received an extension will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel. Please see TSA’s website for a list of acceptable forms of identification. Passengers who have licenses issued by a state that is compliant or that has an extension to become compliant with REAL ID requirements may continue to use their licenses as usual. For a list of states already in compliance or with an extension visit DHS’s REAL ID webpage. DHS continually updates this list as more states come into compliance or obtain extensions.

Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel. A REAL ID compliant license is one that meets, and is issued by a state that complies with, the REAL ID Act’s security standards.”

RELATED: New Rule: Residents In Nine States Will Need Passports For Domestic Flights in 2018

For now, it’s advisable that citizens check with their local DMV offices as to whether or not their current driver’s license or identification card is compliant with the new REAL ID Act regulations before heading to an airport in 2018. Getting a U.S. passport is simple enough – once the correct paperwork is prepared – but getting one in a hurry is expensive when one adds in expedited fees.

For more details on the REAL ID Act and how it affects your state, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID page.