What’s the deal with REAL ID?

My story this week for USA TODAY tries to break down what you need to know about getting that REAL ID we’ve been hearing about.

The deadline is coming up on October 1, 2020, so now it is getting real.

Here’s the story:

Take a look at your driver’s license.

Go ahead, we’ll wait while you fish it out of your wallet.

If your driver’s license doesn’t have a star in the upper corner of the card and you foresee flying on a domestic commercial flight any time after Oct 1, 2020, then your license is not Real ID compliant.

You’ll need to take action, make some decisions, or wait for your state to get its act together.

What’s Real ID?

The Real ID Act is legislation passed in 2005 (in response to the 9/11 terrorists attacks) that set new and higher minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards that will be accepted at airports, other Federally regulated facilities and nuclear power plants.

Debates and pushback from some states over the impact of Real ID have created confusion and delayed the official rollout of the Act’s enforcement, but October 1, 2020 is now considered the firm date for enforcement at commercial airports.

“The main pushback on REAL ID is that it’s too big brother,” said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert with Leading Edge Strategies, “It’s a move to make everyone in the U.S. have identification, which tends to upset those who enjoy life off the grid or don’t like any more government intrusion into their lives more than what is necessary.”

But, Price notes, nearly every state has come into compliance, “And there hasn’t been the big brother/illegal shakedown issues that some people predicted,” he said.

How do you get a REAL ID compliant license and when can you get?

Here’s where things can get tricky.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been phasing in enforcement of the REAL ID Act in an effort to give states time to become compliant with the rules and to begin issuing enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards in time for the October 1, 2020 deadline.

Most states are currently in compliance (see this map) with the REAL ID Act and are able to issue upgraded licenses and IDs.

Seven states (Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine), plus American Samoa, have been granted extensions with varying deadlines for meeting the rules. (Some have until August 1, 2019 while others have until October 1, 2019).

California’s status regarding REAL ID compliance is listed as “Under Review” with a much shorter deadline of May 24, 2019 for achieving compliance.

It is possible these extensions will be extended if the states show they’re making progress. But time is running short.

What this means:

If your current driver’s license or ID card is from a compliant state, TSA will accept it at airports until September 30, 2020. Starting October 1, 2020, though, licenses and IDs from these – and every state – will need to bear a star or special symbol that shows it has been upgraded to conform to the new minimum security standards.

If your current license is from one of the seven states that has been given an extension, or from California, then it is good until the date the extension expires. After that, if the state isn’t given another extension, is it possible TSA will require an additional or alternate form of ID (i.e. a passport) between the extension expiration date and September 30, 2020.

Come October 1, 2020, though, licenses from these extension states will also need to have the star or symbol that shows is has been upgraded to meet the new minimum security standards.

Getting ready for October 1, 2020

Signs about the REAL ID deadline are going up now in airports across the country.

October 1, 2020 seems far off, but it is ‘just’ a year a half away. And there’s sure to be continued confusion and delays in getting upgraded licenses and ID cards from state agencies.

For that reason, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, airports and travel agents are urging travelers to renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs early and to be sure to opt for the ‘enhanced’ or ‘compliant’ versions which, we should warn you, require additional paperwork and may cost more than the ‘for-driving-only’ or ‘unenhanced’ versions in some states.

Or, you can decide if you are comfortable flying domestically with your passport (if you have on; only about 40% of Americans do ) or with one of the other forms of approved identification on this list.

Got that?

Thanks for visiting Stuck at the Airport. Subscribe to get daily travel tidbits. And follow me on Twitter at @hbaskas and Instagram.

 

2 thoughts on “What’s the deal with REAL ID?

  1. Thanks for your commment! Even after researching the REAL ID rules for the story, I’m far from an expert on the topic. So I’d encourage you to contact your DMV for further instructions. Let us know what they tell you, please.

  2. Sheldon Dan says:

    I looked at my driver’s licences and it reads “USA TN” in the corner. I checked the Web site that lists the states and their REAL ID status and Tennessee is one of the states that is compliant.

    I do know that I will have to renew my license in 2020, before the deadline. But if the licence I have at the deadline simply has the same text (not a star), would it be recognized as compliant?

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