Due to the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that they would be moving the deadline back for REAL ID from October 2020 to October 2021. Although the deadline has been pushed back, there are still some specifics you need to be aware of so that you’ll be ready and able to fly domestically come October 1, 2021.
What is REAL ID?
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress way back in 2005 under the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The goal of the act is to enhance the security features of driver’s licenses across the country so that it’s more difficult to board an airplane (especially airplanes that are flying domestically) with a fake driver’s license. Essentially, the purpose of the REAL ID Act is to make us all a little safer when we travel on an airplane.
What’s Taking So Long?
We know that the REAL ID Act was passed in 2005, so why hasn’t it been put into effect yet? Long story short, implementing the law has been somewhat tricky considering that each state issues its own driver’s licenses. While some licenses had substantial safety features put into place, other licenses didn’t. Over the years, numerous extensions have been granted to various states in order to give them enough time to make their driver’s licenses more secure. Even though we are now only a little over a year and a half away from full enforcement, there are still three states that haven’t met the standard as of April 8th, 2020.
Which States Still Don’t Meet the Requirements?
The three states that have been granted an extension and as of April 8th, 2020, have not yet issued a REAL ID compliant driver’s license are Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Oregon. You most likely do not have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license if you live in one of these states.
Can I Board Domestic Flights Without REAL ID After October 1st, 2020?
You’ll still be able to board domestic flights without a REAL ID compliant driver’s license, but you will need another form of federally recognized identification to prove your identity. Such forms of identity include valid passports, passport cards, Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, legal permanent resident cards, and valid military IDs. You can review the full list of valid identification types at the TSA website.
Can I Use My Enhanced Driver’s License?
Yes. Enhanced Driver’s Licenses are different than REAL IDs. At the time of writing, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) are only issued by Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington, and they can be used to fly domestically.
As Long As I Live in a Compliant State I Should Be Set to Travel, Right?
Just because you live in a state that has begun issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses doesn’t mean that you already possess one. If you haven’t had to renew your driver’s license in the last few years, you may still have a license that is not REAL ID compliant.
How Can I Check if my License is Already REAL ID Compliant?
The easiest way to check your license for REAL ID compliance is to look for a star in the upper right-hand corner of your driver’s license. Here’s an example of a REAL ID compliant driver’s license. If you don’t see that star, your license is probably not compliant. That means that even if your license isn’t set to expire before October 1, 2021, you should apply to renew your license before that time.
What if I Can’t Get a REAL ID Before October 1, 2021?
You can still drive legally with your old (valid) license and use it as identification for other things such as paying for alcohol. But if you need to fly somewhere, you’ll need to provide another form of federally approved ID in order to board your flight, such as a passport. Here’s that list of acceptable forms of federal ID one last time.
What About My Kids?
Anyone under the age of 18 doesn’t need to show ID in order to board a flight as long as they are traveling with an adult companion who has valid identification.
If you have any more questions about REAL ID – or expedited passports or visas, or really anything travel-related – give our office a call. You can also visit the REAL ID website for more information.