If you’ve been in an airport recently, you may have seen signage at TSA checkpoints that indicate there are going to be changes to what constitutes an “acceptable ID for air travel.” You may then have wondered what exactly this means for you, and then promptly forgotten all about it.
Well, the time is drawing near when the TSA will require Real ID compliant identification cards for domestic air travel.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Real ID and air travel –in a handy set of FAQs.
First of all, what is Real ID?
Real ID came about in the years after 9/11, when the government passed the Real ID Act in 2005. Essentially, the Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. It prohibits federal agencies from accepting these licenses and IDs from states that are not in compliance. The whole reason this came about was to help eliminate airline terrorism by increasing the requirements for documents that would give passengers access to airplanes.
What do the new ID cards have that the old ones don’t?
The new cards are being built with cutting-edge technology that will make them much harder to forge. Another big difference is that to obtain a state ID will require additional backup documents that not all states currently collect.
Why are we talking about this now?
It’s been a pretty tricky business getting all of the states in compliance with the new requirements. In fact, it’s been almost 15 years since the legislation passed and we’re just now getting to a place where implementation at the airports is going to be a reality. All states will need to be in compliance by October 1, 2020.
How do I know if my driver’s license and state are in compliance?
Most state-issued compliant IDs have a gold or black star on the front of it in the upper right hand corner with a few exceptions – Hawaii, Tennessee, Ohio and Utah are compliant, but do not have the star identifier. It’s probably best to confirm with your state or DMV if you’re not sure. State IDs not in compliance say “Not for Federal Identification” or “Federal Limits Apply.” You can also see a current list of compliant states on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
If my state is on that “compliance list” am I golden?
Not so fast, grasshopper. If your ID doesn’t have the gold or black star in the upper right corner or you’ve been carrying it around for a few years, you should probably get yourself to a DMV and check to make sure you’re good to go.
What happens if I try to travel with my license and it isn’t compliant?
No one knows! Just kidding. The TSA will not allow you to board airplanes after October 1, 2020. You’ll need a passport or passport card to fly domestically if you somehow fall through the cracks and don’t have a Real ID.
States are not generally chasing people down or sending notifications out to give folks a heads up, so don’t wait for someone to hold your hand through this process. You need to be proactive and get the proper ID from your department of motor vehicles (where most people get their driver’s licenses and state ID cards).
What about extensions?
Some states – like California and Alaska, for example, have been granted extensions TO BEGIN ISSUING Real ID cards. If you’re in a state that’s been granted an extension, you should keep checking back to see when they will start issuing (a few states have already filed for additional extension time – those dates might continue to change).
When do I need to start to panic?
You’ve got plenty of time. As we mentioned, the TSA will not be enforcing these new rules until October 1 next year (2020). But time flies. Our best recommendation is to start the process of getting a new ID early. Even if you don’t fly frequently (or at all!) you wouldn’t want to be caught out without proper identification should the need to fly come up.
The good news is that most states are trying to make this process simple and straightforward. The bad news is that you might have to get ahold of your original/certified birth certificate and/or proof of a social security number and they will charge you a fee (some states are charging $25). Every state is different, so find out what your state requires and then give yourself a decent amount of time to collect those documents.
Do I need one to vote?
Nope. The Real ID requirement will not affect voter access or registering to vote. It will not be required to apply for or receive federal benefits and it will not be required to access hospitals. You will need one to access other federal facilities (like military bases and nuclear power plants), but not federal buildings that don’t already require them (like the public areas of the Smithsonian).
One more thing. Real ID doesn’t nullify the passport requirement for international travel. You still need a passport to leave the country.
We know this is all a little confusing. Please hit us up in the comments section with any additional questions you might have regarding your personal situation and we’ll do our best to help out.