I’ve noticed the warnings when going through security, but never really paid close attention to them. But be aware: residents in a handful of states may need a U.S. passport to travel domestically starting next January.
To put it very simply, the REAL ID Act of 2005 seeks a minimum level of security features on U.S. state driver’s licenses in order to reduce the risk of terrorism. You can read the minutia of the law here, but the following must be present on driver’s licenses:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Unique identifying number
- Principal residence address
- Front-facing photograph of the applicant
Many states are not fully compliant with this. The DHS offers this map, with yellow indicating non-compliant states. According to its site, DHS is reviewing each extension and will make its next determination by October 10, 2017.
Passports for Domestic U.S. Travel on January 22, 2018?
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary has outlined the following deadlines.
Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight. To check whether your state is compliant or has an extension, click here. Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will still be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards.
Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.
That’s not exactly clear, is it? We’ll find out next month which states have been granted extensions and if any are not. I predict DHS will grant each state an extension. However, it is at least possible you may soon need your passports to travel on a U.S. domestic flight.
CONCLUSION (+ a little commentary)
It seems to me that the whole “Real ID” controversy stems in part from a deep-seeded mistrust of government ingrained into American political thought. That has led states like Missouri and Montana to fiercely resist new ID requirements. With a White House that kowtowed to such theories in the campaign, it would not surprise me to see a further extension of implementation of this act. Then again, the security theatre of TSA officers scrutinizing driver’s licenses under black lights at security checkpoints is not to be minimized. People like to feel safe, even if such measures do no nothing to actually to keep us safer.
I wonder what they’ll do in Pittsburgh?