A driver’s license might not be good enough identification to board an airplane in the future, depending on which state issued it. Come Sunday, some states’ licenses will not be adequate ID to enter federal facilities like military bases. Ten years after Congress passed legislation weaving together drivers’ license requirements and systems into the national ID mechanism recommended by the 9/11 Commission to protect against future terrorist activities, only 23 states are already in compliance.
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday, Jan. 8, that it will not require the new IDs (or a valid passport) to pass through security and board a domestic flight until Jan. 22, 2018, which is a two-year reprieve on earlier plans. This is good news to the states not in compliance, most of which are in the midst of implementing the system requirements. However, not all states are planning to comply on time.
“Over the next two years, those states that are not REAL ID compliant are strongly encouraged to meet the requirements of the law for the benefit of their residents,” commented Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. His department has indicated that by 2020, all states must be finished implementing the program on their citizens will not be allowed on airplanes without passports.
Twenty-seven states and territories that are not yet ready to implement the IDs have been dragging their heals, but have made considerable progress toward meeting the federal measure. So, people with licenses and state IDs from those jurisdictions will still be allowed in federal facilities and on military bases.
California issues the most licenses in the country, with almost 24 million licenses out there. The state falls somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of states implementing that REAL ID standards. California has reportedly implemented 15 of the requirements but still has more to do.
There are five states that are nowhere near ready. The states and territory that have not been implementing the requirements set 10 years ago are American Samoa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico as well as the state of Washington.
The federal plan for “REAL ID” cards had assumed that state motor-vehicle departments would move toward implementing uniform federal standards on driver’s licenses and ID cards (versus more than 50 sets of rules) with data shared electronically between jurisdictions nationwide. The federal standards included specified documentation required to establish one’s identity, immigration status and such. The measure also required that licenses be more tamper proof and have “machine readable” technology, like a chip or a magnetic strip, for storing personal information. It also required Departments of Motor Vehicles to run background checks on their staff involved in issuing licenses.
Half the states objected outright to the REAL ID Act or legislatures passed bills barring their states from participating. The federal government has repeatedly pushed back the deadlines. Now, however, a decade later, the Department of Homeland Security is calling their bluff and implementing the national ID standard program. So, travelers should be aware that in the foreseeable future, a driver’s license might not be enough ID to board an airplane in the U.S.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
USA Today: Homeland Security sets Real ID travel deadline for 2018
ABC News: Federal ID Rules Could Make It Harder to Board Your Plane
CATO Institute: The Real ID Act: A State-by-State Update
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota, 4 other states get two-year reprieve on Real ID