The Real Deal About the Real ID Act

Driver License Plastic Card Isolated on White Background

I Can’t Board a Plane with My Driver’s License?

Back in 2013, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act. The REAL ID Act is a coordinated effort by the states and the Federal Government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents by implementing a 9/11 Commission recommendation urging the federal government to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

For a traveler, this directly impacts your ability to board an airplane in the New Year.

If you fly the friendly skies, you need to know the REAL ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver’s licenses and identity cards to board federally-regulated commercial aircraft from states the Department of Homeland Security determines have not met the new standards in 2016.

If you live in one of these compliant states/territories, you can board a plane with your state/territories driver’s licenses and identity cards:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • DC
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Should you reside in one of these states/territories, the federal agencies are accepting driver’s licenses from these states until at least January 10, 2016 under a grace period:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Guam
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Marianas
  • Puerto Rico
  • Carolina
  • Virgin Islands
  • Washington

If you call one of these states/territories home, federal agencies can accept driver’s licenses until October 10, 2016, under an extension.

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New York
  • Carolina
  • Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Virginia

If you’re from New Hampshire, an extension allows federal agencies to accept your driver’s licenses until June 1, 2016. Currently, the only noncompliant states/territories are American Samoa and Minnesota.

So what do you do if you’re in a non-compliant state/territory? You can present alternative forms of identification, with your driver’s license or identification card, including:

  • S. passport
  • S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential

The Department of Homeland Security said they will provide the public a minimum of 120 days’ notice before identification requirements for boarding aircraft change, and will share what to do if you have a non-compliant driver’s license or identification card.

These efforts are going into effect to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification. You can learn more online at Homeland Security.

Be aware if you’re considering obtaining a passport, you might experience delays as people rush to get their documents.

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