The Real ID program and what it means for travelers in 2016

September 16, 2015 Mark Dauner

**Update: January 8, 2015: Get the latest on the Real ID Act here.

**Update: December 22, 2015: The Department of Homeland Security has published a page with more information on the RealID Act and a state-by-state run-down of Real ID compliance. This page should have the most up-to-date information on what’s happening in your state.

**Update November 4, 2015: The State of Minnesota has applied for an extension from the Federal Government to the Real ID law due to existing state privacy laws that prevent them from issuing Real ID-compliant ID cards.  Read more.

**Update: October 15, 2015: the Department of Homeland Security has issued a one-year extension to most the states mentioned in this article, including New York. Read more.


You may or may not have heard of the Real ID Act. Congress passed it back in 2005 per the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and this is what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security tells us it’s all about:

  • It “establishes minimum standards for the production and issuance of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and authorizes grants to assist states in implementing the requirements.”
  • It “prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official uses driver’s licenses and identity cards from states unless the Department of Homeland Security determines that the state meets the standards. Official uses are defined as accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft.”

Many of the initial phases, which require Real ID approved identification to access secured federal facilities and military bases, have already gone into effect. The final phase of this initiative, which the DHS says will start “no sooner than 2016” could have an impact on travelers. It says that “a driver’s license or identification card from a noncompliant state may only be used in conjunction with a second form of ID for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.” That means you’ll have to have a driver’s license or ID card that complies with the Real ID’s rules to get on a plane. Most of our 50 states and territories are now compliant or have extensions in place with the DHS that will allow their IDs to continue to be used. If you’re in one of the following states or territories, however, you need to pay attention:

  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • American Samoa

If you are a resident of one of those places and you want to board a plane next year you may need to show additional Real ID-approved identification. That means you’ll need to have a passport to get on both international AND domestic flights. It might be a good idea to start the process of getting one now if you don’t already have one or yours will be expiring.

We will continue to follow this story and will update you with new information as we see it.

Links with more information:

Special thanks to employee-owners Sara Cartwright and Frank Pratas for contributing to this post!


The post The Real ID program and what it means for travelers in 2016 appeared first on Travel and Transport.

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