Prepare for a Scare in October 2020 (The Impact of REAL ID Non-Compliance)

Now that we are one year away from total enforcement of REAL ID, it’s time to talk specifics and to make sure that you will be ready and able to fly domestically come October 1, 2020.

What is REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act is an act that was passed by Congress way back in 2005 under the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The goal of the act is to enhance the security features of driver’s licenses across the country to make it much harder to board an airplane – even and especially airplanes that are flying domestically (within the country) – with a fake driver’s license. Basically, the goal is to make us all a little safer when we travel by air.

What’s the hold-up?

Even though REAL ID was passed back in 2005, implementing the law has been tricky because each state issues their own driver’s licenses. Some licenses already had substantial safety features and others didn’t. Over the years, extensions have been granted to several states in order to give them enough time to make their driver’s licenses more secure. But even though we are now one year away from full enforcement, there are still three states and one US territory that haven’t met the standard.

Which states don’t yet have REAL IDs?

The four places that have been granted an extension and, as of writing, have not yet issued a REAL ID compliant driver’s license are Oregon, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and American Samoa. If you live in one of these places, you most likely do not have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license.

Does that mean I can’t board domestic flights?

No, but it does mean that you will need some other form of federally recognized identification in order to prove your identity and board domestic flights. Such forms of identity include valid passports, passport cards, Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, legal permanent resident cards, and valid military IDs. You can review the full list of valid identification types at the TSA website.

Can I use my Enhanced Driver’s License?

Yes. Enhanced Driver’s Licenses are different than REAL IDs. At the time of writing, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) are only issued by Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington, and they can be used to fly domestically.

REAL ID Compliance

So if I live in a compliant state, I’m good?

Not necessarily. Just because you live in a state that has started issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses doesn’t mean that you already have one. If you haven’t had to renew your driver’s license in the last few years, you may still have a license that is not REAL ID compliant.

How do I check if my license is REAL ID compliant?

The easiest way to check your license for REAL ID compliance is to look for a star in the upper right-hand corner of your license. Here’s an example. If you don’t see that star, your license is probably not compliant. That means that even if your license isn’t set to expire before October 1, 2020, you should apply to renew your license before that time.

What if I can’t get a REAL ID before October 1, 2020?

You can still drive legally with your old (valid) license and use it as ID for other things – like paying for alcohol. But if you need to fly somewhere, you’ll need to provide another form of federally approved ID in order to board your flight, such as a passport. Here’s that list of acceptable forms of federal ID one more time.

And what about my kids?

Anyone under the age of 18 doesn’t need to show ID in order to board a flight as long as they are traveling with an adult companion who has valid identification.

If you have any more questions about REAL ID – or expedited passports or visas, or really anything travel related – give our office a call. You can also visit the REAL ID website for more information.

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