Some travelers from a handful of states may be in for a huge, unpleasant surprise next year when they find that their driver’s licenses aren’t sufficient to get them through airport security for a flight within the United States.
In December, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began posting signs at airports alerting travelers that starting Jan. 22, 2018, state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards from Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington State will no longer be accepted as valid identification to get through TSA’s airport security screening.
Travelers from those states will be required to present an alternate form of identification, even for a domestic flight.
It all stems from the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 with the goal of improving security and preventing fraud. The act established federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibited federal agencies – including the TSA – from accepting IDs that do not meet those standards.
States were required to implement anti-counterfeit technology and institute more stringent requirements for proving identity and U.S. citizenship, or legal residency, before a driver’s license or ID card can be issued.
Over the past decade, states have been given time to bring their processes for issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards into compliance with federal law. As a result, the REAL ID Act’s restrictions have not yet been enforced at the nation’s airports. Most states have either complied or been given an extension by the Department of Homeland Security, and the TSA has continued to accept IDs from all states, regardless of their status. But the TSA has stepped up its campaign to notify flyers that a change is coming.
The deadline is spurring discussions among lawmakers in some of the affected states, so the situation could easily change between now and next January.
Already, South Carolina and Oklahoma, two of the states included on the airport warning signs, have been granted extensions through June 6, 2018. (The TSA will update signs if and when states receive extensions.)
And it’s important to remember that the TSA will continue to accept IDs from all states for the remainder of 2017. But next January, security personnel will only accept state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards from states that are compliant with the act or that have received an extension. By Oct. 1, 2020, every traveler will need REAL ID-compliant identification for domestic air travel. (And remember that this only applies to adults. The TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.)
The TSA will accept alternate forms of identification, such as a passport, a passport card, a trusted traveler card issued by the Department of Homeland Security, a military ID or a permanent resident card. In addition, for an added fee Washington and Minnesota will issue their residents Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) that meet the new federal standards.