With the New Year approaching, it looks like new changes are on the horizon. Beginning on January 22,
2018, you could be among a very large group of Americans who are no longer able to use their driver’s license to check in at the airport for domestic flights. You may need to carry a passport to fly domestically. On that date, the REAL ID Act will go into effect, establishing minimum-security standards for sources of identification, including state driver’s licenses.
The act is a federal mandate requiring every state to issue a more secure state driver’s license. The Transportation Security Admission (TSA) will stop accepting driver’s licenses that do not comply with the Real ID act on that date. The act was passed in Congress in 2005 in the aftermath of 9/11. Originally the date for state compliance was set for January 2016, but less than half of the states were compliant at the beginning of that year. So, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new timeline with a two-year extension until January 22, 2018. Enforcement has been rolling out in stages over the years. The Real ID Act requires states to issue driver’s licenses that comply with the federal standards. In short, if your state is not compliant with the Real ID Act, you’ll need an additional form of identification in order to get through airport security as well as other federal facilities including military bases.
Currently about half of the states are fully compliant with the Real ID regulations, which means residents in such states as North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona can continue to board domestic flights with their driver’s license as the main form of identification. Most of the remaining states—including Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, and Alaska—have just recently been granted an extension through October 18, 2018, which will allow passengers from those states to continue to go through security with their current license until that date but will not be valid after that date.
A handful of states, including New York, Louisiana, Illinois, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are “under review,” which means they have requested an extension, but the extension has not been granted yet and might require showing an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board a flight.
If you find yourself in a fix, there are several other forms of acceptable identification such as DHS trusted traveler cards—Global Entry or NEXSUS, U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents, to mention a few.
Until the state in which your driver’s license is registered becomes compliant, it is probably a good idea for residents of non-compliant states to apply for a passport.
For the latest update concerning each state’s current compliance, go to www.dhs.gov. The site shows if a state is in compliance, under review, granted an extension or is not compliant.