Leave Your Passports at Home

You may have heard that the US Department of Homeland Security has stated that photo IDs from New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Samoa do not meet the minimum standards of the federal REAL ID system. It was previously reported that beginning in 2016, residents from these states and Samoa, would not be able to use their drivers’ licenses (or state-issued photo IDs) as identification for domestic flights.

This is not yet true! Despite a number of confusing announcements and misleading media coverage, on Friday, January 8, 2016, The Homeland Security announced that residents of all states will be able to use any state-issued driver’s license for domestic air travel at TSA checkpoints until January 22, 2018. After this date, air travelers with a driver’s license issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act must present an alternative form of ID acceptable to the TSA in order to board a domestic flight, unless the state has been granted an extension to comply with the act.

The REAL ID Act (the Act) was passed by Congress in 2005, at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, to establish minimum security standards. The enforcement plan included four phases: establishing a Department of Homeland Security headquarters, implementing restrictions at all federal facilities and nuclear plants, creating semi-restricted areas at federal facilities and nuclear plants, and finally, federally regulating passengers and their identification on commercial aircraft. The fourth phase of the REAL ID act is still in process. In regards to identification, the REAL ID act calls for enhanced security features, essentially to make it much harder to counterfeit state-issued photo IDs.

While all states have made progress with regard to security features on their photo IDs, not all states are up to the minimum standards set forth in the Act. Some of these states have filed for extensions in order to comply, and were granted those extensions by DHS. Identification from those states and territories, which have been deemed non-compliant, will still be accepted for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft until announced otherwise; however, identification from those non-compliant states will not be accepted at federal facilities, nuclear plants, and military bases beginning January 10, 2016.