With the start of the new year, the media is again focused on the REAL ID Act passed by Congress in 2005 (Find out more about the Real ID Act here). Some stories refer to a January 10, 2016 date, which may cause travelers some alarm. To help understand the current status of the REAL ID Act and what impact it may have on travelers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created a website that provides an overview along with FAQsv and Rumor Control information.
It is important to know that as of January 4, 2016 DHS has not announced an effective date for when REAL ID compliant licenses will be required for boarding domestic flights in the United States. Travelers can still use their valid driver’s license from any state to board domestic flights in the U.S.
Update (January 12, 2016):
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally announced this week the timeline for requiring REAL ID compliant licenses for boarding U.S. domestic flights. Fortunately, there will not be any impact to travelers for another two years.
The DHS will conduct outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline, and continue engagements with states to encourage compliance with REAL ID standards.
Starting July 15, 2016, the TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, will begin to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.
Beginning December 15, 2016, the TSA will expand outreach at its airport checkpoints through signage, handouts, and other methods.
In January, 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. 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.
After October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.
DHS posted useful information online, detailing the new timeline and which states will be affected and when.
DHS enforces the REAL ID Act in phases. Phases 1 – 3 cover restricted and semi-restricted Federal facilities including nuclear power plants, DHS headquarters, and other Federal facilities. Phase 4 specifically addresses boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.
According to the DHS website, “DHS is in the process of scheduling plans for implementing REAL ID enforcement at airports. DHS will ensure that the public has ample notice (at least 120 days) before any changes are made that might affect their travel planning.”
While a REAL ID compliant license or a license from a state that has a valid extension may be required to enter some Federal facilities, it does not yet apply to air travel. No effective date for Phase 4 has been announced. Some states are already compliant with the REAL ID Act. Other states currently have extensions which expire in three waves including January 10th, June 1st, and October 10th of 2016.
The media is focused heavily on the states that lack an extension, which include Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington. According to DHS, these four states, “Have not received an extension for 2016 and will be subject to enforcement for accessing most Federal facilities, nuclear power plants and military bases beginning January 20, 2016.” Minnesota is considered a non-compliant state, but DHS has authorized Federal officials to accept Enhanced Driver’s Licenses from Minnesota. It is important to know that non-compliance or the lack of an extension only applies to phases 1 – 3 and does not yet affect the use of a driver’s license for boarding domestic flights. The DHS has created an interactive map to get the latest updates by state.
While DHS has committed to a minimum 120-day notice, travelers that have a license from non-compliant states do have the option of pursuing other TSA acceptable forms of ID including a U.S. passport or Global Entry. A complete list of acceptable ID is available from the TSA website.
Travel and Transport will continue to monitor DHS communications and we will update you when they announce their plan to enforce phase 4.