REAL ID, enacted by the 109th Congress in 2005 is set to become effective starting January 22, 2018 and will have an effect air travelers.
The REAL ID Act of 2005 sets new requirements and standards for state driver’s licenses and ID cards that will be acceptable in order to board an airplane within the United States, as well as access to nuclear power plants and other federal buildings. The airline requirement is Phase 4 of the program. As of this writing, 26 states and territories have already complied with the new requirements, 25 others have filed for an extension, but 5 others have not meet the requirements (Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and Washington). To find out if your state is compliant, you can check here.
REAL ID sets up certain standards as to verifying your identity before your ID has been issued, irregardless of whether you currently have a driver’s license or not. (sound like Extreme Vetting? So this a requirement for US citizens, but not for refugees or immigrants?…but that’s another topic) I know in my State of Georgia, they began requiring new documents a few years ago before renewing your current ID or driver’s license. Each applicant must provide the following: 1) a photo ID or non-photo ID that includes full legal name and birth date. 2) Documentation of birth date. 3) Documentation of legal status and Social Security number. 4) Documentation showing name and principal residence address. All of this documentation will be stored in each DMV database.
Each ID is also required to meet specific security features to prevent duplication, tampering, counterfeiting as well as having data in a machine readable format. (magnetic strip, bar code, QR codes etc). RFID chips, like we now in many of our credit and debit cards, are not required at this point, but it was discussed and may be added at a later date.
The Act also set up the ability to link each states database to be shared both domestically and internationally. Some have called this a “National Database”, but proponents of the bill claim this as false. This is not the beginning a national ID system as each state will still be designing and issuing their own ID’s and maintain their own database, claims DHS, but several groups have disputed this claim.
What does this mean for you?
To make this simple, “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” That is until October 1, 2020 when a REAL ID compliant license or ID will be required. Children under the age of 18 and when accompanied by an adult, will not be required to meet the requirements at this time. As for when they are not with an adult is information I could not locate at this time. Please check with your individual airline, but even though it’s not stated, I’m sure it wouldn’t be required.
This does not mean that you as the passenger has to have a REAL ID license by January 22, but that your state must be in compliance per DHS standards, which essentially means they are in timely progress of implementing the REAL ID program in their respective states.
You should really look up your state’s progress before flying starting next year. Don’t wait until you get to the airport and realize that you will not be able to board. There will be probably millions of examples, myself included where your current ID or license may not expire until after January 22, 2017, or even after October 1, 2020. If you fall into this group, you will be required to get a new ID before the October 1, 2020 deadline.
I encourage everyone to read more about this here.