TSA to stop accepting some states' drivers licenses in 2018

On January 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced new rules regarding airline passengers being able to use their driver’s licenses to fly domestically. Under the new REAL ID Act, travelers in five U.S. states and one U.S. territory will not be able to board their flights with only a driver’s license beginning January 22, 2018.

Under a post-9/11 law, state-issued identifications will only be accepted by federal agencies if they meet certain federal security standards which were passed in 2005. Driver’s licenses that meet these standards are known as REAL IDs and have been adopted by most states. Those which have not yet adopted REAL IDs will either do so later on this year, or its residents will be required present other forms of identification at TSA checkpoints when traveling by air. These states include Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and American Samoa.

What is REAL ID and why is it being implemented?

The REAL ID Act was enacted in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act created minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting licenses and identification cards that do not meet such standards. As a result of the Act, every state currently has a more secure driver’s license than before the passage of the Act.

Real ID

What does this mean for travelers?

Travelers are not yet required to present additional forms of identification when traveling by air, at least for the next two years. States that do not yet comply with the REAL ID Act requirements have until January 22, 2018 to issue new identifications that meet the set standards, and beginning October 1, 2020 all passengers will be required to have a REAL ID-compliant identification or passport to fly.
For now, all state-issued licenses and identification cards (see full list at TSA.gov) are accepted at airport checkpoints under the current guidelines.

Implementation of the REAL ID Act

The following timetable was announced January 8 and outlines the stages of the REAL ID Act and its implementation for air travel.

  • Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline below, and continue engagements with states to encourage compliance with REAL ID standards.
  • Starting July 15, 2016, TSA, in co-ordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, will begin to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.
  • Starting December 15, 2016, TSA will expand outreach at its airport checkpoints through signage, handouts, and other methods.
  • Starting January 22, 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.  To check whether your state is compliant or has an extension, click here.  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.
  • Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.