As January 22, 2018 approaches, the race to become a REAL ID compliant state may lose the current sense of urgency, as many states have now been granted an extension through October 2018 to become compliant. That’s right, after 11 years of extending the grace period to become REAL ID compliant, the government once again has allowed non-compliant states another grace period. Michigan, New York, and Louisiana are the only 3 states that are still under review. Depending on the outcome of the review, the state will either be deemed compliant, granted an extension, or be deemed noncompliant.
In summary, if you live in a green state, and have a driver’s license from that state, this is an issue that you no longer need to worry about; congratulations, you are REAL ID compliant! If you live in a red state, your ID is still NOT compliant, however you technically don’t need to worry about anything changing on Jan 22. If you live in a red state, you can visit the Homeland Security website. Just click on the state you live in, and the details of your extended grace period will be explained in great detail. Residents of the green and red states can absolutely still travel domestically with State ID. Lastly if you live in a blue state, you are still in limbo. It is unknown what will happen for your ID to become compliant. You can visit the Homeland Security website to stay abreast of any developments. If you travel domestically frequently, and live in a blue state, Swift suggests getting a passport now if you don’t already have one. This is a prudent thing to do because as of Jan22, you may actually NEED that passport for domestic travel.
Current passport processing times are listed as 6-8 weeks, with this influx of applications, it is expected that it could take even longer than 8 weeks for your passport to be issued by mail. If you need it faster than that, you have 3 options.
- You can pay an extra $60 to expedite the passport by mail and get your passport in about 3 weeks. Any problem with the application will cause a 1 week delay or more.
- You can pay an extra $60 to expedite a passport in person at a Regional Passport Agency. Processing will take 1 to 8 business days, but the exact turnaround time will depend upon which Regional Passport Agency you visit, and the facility’s ability to accommodate your travel needs. To get your passport expedited at a Regional Passport Agency, you may also need to make an appointment and/or show that you are traveling in two weeks or less.
- Use a third party passport expediting service. These services can get a passport in as little as 1 business day. In addition to the $60 government expediting fee, these services also have a service fee ranging from $100-$400.
In conclusion, if you live in a non-compliant state, or even a state with an extension, and you plan to travel in the next 2 years, get a passport or other TSA approved ID now. Please be sure to check back with the US Department of Homeland Security for all updates on the compliance status of your state, as this information is very fluid and subject to change. There will be a lot of unhappy travelers who can’t get ID in time, but remember, this is a preventable problem that does not need to negatively impact your travel plans! Take care of it now, and happy travels, wherever life may take you!
Laurie Lee is co-founder and CEO of Swift Passport and Visa Services. A Chicago native, Laurie loves adventure travel, especially to the Caribbean. She enjoys writing for the Swift Post, as well as for her personal blog, Spare Parts- www.sparebodyparts.com.