How the Real ID Act Will Affect Travelers When it Begins Jan. 22nd


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We last mentioned the new ID law, which will affect U.S. citizens travelling internationally and domestically using state drivers licenses for identification, back in June. Since then, some states have gained extensions and some additional information has come out that could help travelers figure out exactly how the Real ID act will affect them when it begins on January 22nd, 2018. The New York Times recently published an article that has provided some useful insight into what this law could mean for you on your travels next year.

The Real ID act was passed in 2005 with the purpose of preventing identity fraud. The federal government set certain security standards, on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, for how identification is issued and used by states. Spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security Justine Whelan explained, “The act prevents the production of fake IDs and ensures that all identification that is used has certain features that prevent tampering or are difficult to replicate.”

The problem, of course, is that not all states issue identification the same way, meaning the old standard of using a drivers license at an airport TSA checkpoint may not be compliant for travelers from certain states. If you have an upcoming flight scheduled for after January 22nd, don’t panic yet. Extensions have been granted to many non-compliant states, and the worst-case scenario is that you will need to get an additional form of federally accepted ID.

Your State

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If you are wondering how compliant your home state is with the Real ID Act, just head over to dhs.gov/real-id. At this time, all states fit into one of three categories: Compliant, Extension, and Under Review.  There is a fourth category, Not Compliant, but no states are currently listed under it.

Compliant state travelers are free to use their state IDs and drivers licenses under the act. Extension state travelers may use their state IDs and drivers licenses until the deadline of October 1st, 2020, by which point all travelers are required to have compliant identification. Under Review state travelers must provide another federally accepted identification until their state is either granted an extension or judged to be compliant. If a state reaches the Not Compliant designation, travelers will need to have another federally accepted form of identification.



The Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID page will update as designations change, extension are given, and extensions expire, so if your state isn’t currently listed as Compliant make sure to check back in frequently.

Where it’s Required

Although TSA airport checkpoints are the largest concern for many, Real ID affects other institutions across the country. The act is being implemented in waves, so citizens of non-compliant states may be required to provide Real ID approved identification to enter federal or military properties.

The act does have limitations though, and according to the DHS site, does not prevent use of non-compliant state IDs for “activities directly relating to safety and health or life preserving services, to law enforcement, and to constitutionally protected activities.” It also stipulates that “the Act does not apply to voting, registering to vote, or for applying for or receiving Federal benefits.”

Real ID Accepted Identification

Although a passport is most common, the TSA currently lists 15 acceptable forms of identification for travelling purposes. As of today, the acceptable ID list is (state issued IDs must be from Real ID compliant states):

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • 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
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

November and December have the quickest turnaround times for applying for or renewing your passport; four weeks, as opposed to eight weeks in the summer, according to Brenda Sprague, who oversees passport services for the U.S. Department of State. If you are unsure as to where you can apply, the Department of State has a site provided to help you figure that out HERE. If you are travelling withing two weeks, rush passports may also be applied for.

A passport will run you $110 and a $25 application fee if you are a first time applicant; renewals cost $110, and expedited passports run an additional $60. Renewals may be done by mail, but new passports and replacements must be done in person.

Sources: The New York Times, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security



*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the DIS.

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