Real ID – Why My Driver’s License May No Longer Work as an ID for Air Travel

Will Real ID Affect Your Ability to Board a Commercial Flight?Next year, my Arizona driver’s license may no longer be an acceptable form of identification for air travel whether domestic or abroad. Yes, you read right. I may no longer be able to use my driver’s license to get through airport security, at least not without a second “acceptable” form of identification. In addition, Arizona residents are not alone. People in several other states may have the same issue. Why?

Way back in 2005, Congress passed and then-President Bush signed the Real ID Act 2005 into law. The idea was to make it more difficult to pass off a fraudulent ID when entering a federal building or boarding most commercial airplanes in the United States. From the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) website:

What does the REAL ID Act require?

The REAL ID Act of 2005:

  • Establishes minimum standards for the production and issuance of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and authorizes grants to assist states in implementing the requirements;
  • Prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official uses driver’s licenses and identity cards from states unless the Department of Homeland Security determines that the state meets the standards. Official uses are defined as accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft.

The DHS has begun implementation in phases, most of which haven’t affected the average American and none of which have affected travel. As of right now, an official date on when DHS will require Real ID for boarding commercial flights has not been announced, but it could be as early as anytime in 2016 and our local media is quoting a deadline of January 1, 2016.

The problem is, as of right now, Arizona and a number of other states have not yet implemented Real ID. Most of the states who are not in compliance, Arizona included, have filed for extensions to be in compliance and most have been granted. According to Arizona Department of Transportation, they are expecting to have Real ID compliant driver’s licenses available as an option for a fee (above and beyond the cost of a traditional driver’s license) in April, 2016. That will work for Arizonans IF DHS grants the extension to October, 2016 for which Arizona has applied.

As I mentioned before, Arizona is not alone. According to the DHS website, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York are not in compliance and over 20 states from California to Maine are on borrowed time through extensions. Check to see if your state is on the list.

What does this mean for travelers? For right now, nothing. My only advice is to watch DHS’s and your own state department of transportation’s websites to watch for changes so if you don’t already have one, you can get a Real ID compliant identification card or driver’s license when they become available. If you have a passport, that can be used instead of a Real ID if you prefer. There has been no change to passports being an acceptable form of identification.

For more information, DHS has provided a webpage with Real ID FAQs.

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