Updated – REAL ID: What’s Happening To New ID Requirements For Air Travel?

by Miles Jackson

UPDATE!

*Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline by a year. The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021. (More details).

Beginning *October 1, 2021, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.

A little more than a year away, the TSA is changing its identification requirements. Here’s exactly what this means for you, and how TSA “REAL ID” protocol affects future air travel. Effective on Oct. 1, 2020 (Extended to October 1, 2021) travelers will not be allowed to board a flight without a REAL ID, or some kind of alternative identification such as a passport.

If you have been inside an airport recently, you may have seen signage at TSA checkpoints that announce there are going to be changes to what constitutes an acceptable ID for air travel.

In fact, the TSA has begun an awareness program to educate flyers. At many TSA checkpoints (where they verify your documents) if your ID is not REAL ID Compliant, you may hear the agent say “Next year, beginning October 2021 you would not be allowed to fly with your current ID.

Well, soon, the TSA Real ID requirements will mean you must have compliant identification cards for domestic air travel.

First, What Is TSA Compliant REAL ID?

Soon the TSA Will Require You to Have a Compliant ID to FlySoon the TSA Will Require You to Have a REAL ID to Fly

REAL ID is the result of congressional legislation — one of those laws enacted after 9/11. The government passed the REAL ID Act in 2005.

The Act established specific minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. REAL ID prohibits federal agencies from accepting those licenses and IDs from states that are not in compliance — more on that later. This legislation meant to eliminate potential airline terrorism by increasing the security requirements for documents that would give passengers access to airplanes.

What’s The Difference Between the Old & New TSA Compliant REAL IDs?

The new identification cards are being built with some newer, cutting-edge technology that will make them much harder to forge. Additionally, obtaining a state ID will require supplementary supporting documents that not all the states currently collect.

Why Are Many People Just Hearing About REAL ID Requirements Now?

It’s been a difficult and often contentious battle getting each of the fifty states into compliance with the new identification requirements. There have been delays and extensions since first enacted into law. In fact, it’s been nearly 15 years since the legislation passed and finally we are at a point where implementation in America’s airports is going to become a reality. All states must be in compliance by October 1, 2021. That’s why it’s important now to know what is going on.

How Can I Tell If My ID and My State Driver’s License Are TSA REAL ID Compliant?

 

No Star - No Fly Says TSA

Not All ID’s Are ‘REAL ID’ Compliant

Nearly all the states with issued compliant ID’s have a black or gold star on the front of the card — in the upper right hand corner with a few exceptions.

REAL ID TSA DHS Current Map United States

To complicate matters a bit, Hawaii, Tennessee and Utah are REAL ID compliant, but do not have the star identifier. You can check with your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if you’re not certain. State IDs not in compliance say “Not for Federal Identification” or “Federal Limits Apply.” You can check out the current list of compliant states on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.

If My State Is On That Compliant List, Then Is My ID Compliant?

Not necessarily. You may have acquired your license before it was compliant. In that case, you need to get a new and compliant ID. If your ID doesn’t have the gold or black star in the upper right corner (and it’s not from Hawaii, Tennessee or Utah,) you should visit your DMV and check to make sure your ID is compliant, or get a new ID.

If I Have TSA PreCheck Do I Need a REAL ID?

Yes, although TSA PreCheck is a great benefit to have, it will not prevent you from having to present a compliant ID to pass through a TSA security checkpoint and board a flight.

With the popularity of credit cards that include PreCheck, membership has increased overall.

If you want to get free TSA PreCheck, these credit cards include Global Entry and TSA PreCheck reimbursement, among other benefits:

What Happens If I Ignore This and Try to Fly With a Non-Compliant ID?

REAL ID Non-Compliant ID's will be denied boardingNon-Compliant ID holders will soon be denied boarding

You won’t fly.  Even if you have another state government issued ID, the TSA has made it quite clear that anyone who fails to present a REAL ID compliant ID will not be allowed to pass through a TSA checkpoint and board an airplane after October 1, 2021. In that case, you’ll need a passport or passport card to fly domestically.

It is up to you, the traveler, to know if your ID is compliant and to make efforts to ensure you have an acceptable ID for travel. Take steps now. You still have several months before the October 1, 2021 deadline to get the proper ID from your DMV.

Will There Be Any More Extensions?

Hey, we are talking about the US government, so anything’s possible. There have been a lot of delays and extensions as I mentioned.

But don’t count on any more as we are down to the ‘eleventh hour’ on full implementation of the REAL ID requirements. There are some real issues with getting some states to issue the REAL ID cards. For example, Alaska and California were granted an extension for the dates they must begin issuing the cards, but that does not change the TSA’s October 1, 2021 deadline for travel. If your state has been granted such an extension, you should check back often on when exactly they will issue the new ID’s.

Here is the latest extension information, provided by Department of Homeland Security

Noncompliant Jurisdiction2019 Extension Ends
CaliforniaJan 10, 2019*
MassachusettsJan 10, 2019*
GuamJan 10, 2019*
VirginiaJan 10, 2019*
MinnesotaMar 01, 2019*
U.S. Virgin Islands1-Apr-19
Rhode Island1-May-19
Alaska1-Jun-19
Montana1-Jun-19
Northern Marianas1-Jun-19
Illinois1-Jun-19
Kentucky1-Aug-19
Missouri1-Aug-19
Pennsylvania1-Aug-19
American Samoa10-Oct-19
New Jersey10-Oct-19
Maine10-Oct-19
Oklahoma10-Oct-19
Oregon10-Oct-19
* indicates state is issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses and IDs

* indicates state is issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses and IDs

What Should You Do Right Now?

If you do not have REAL ID compliant license, you should first check to see if your state is already compliant.

Here’s a graphic to help you see where your state might fall in the requirements, provided by the TSA (but this is subject to change)

TSA DHS REAL ID Graphic

Timeline of REAL ID TSA Air Travel Requirements

If your state is compliant, you should check to see if your ID is compliant. If not, make the effort to get yourself a new ID. You probably will have to produce a verified copy of your original birth certificate and proof of a valid Social Security number to meet your state’s identification requirements.

If your state is not compliant, then contact your DMV to find out when they expect to be compliant. You’ve got some time, but make a plan to get your compliant ID. Remember, the TSA will not be enforcing these new rules until October 1, 2021.

“Homeland Security established some guidelines for all 50 states to abide by,” Secretary of State Jesse White said in May. Here’s the TSA’s checklist to get a Real ID: https://realid.ilsos.gov/checklist.html.

In addition the Secretary of State’s website has more information on the Real ID.

Start Early, Beat the Rush to Get Your TSA REAL ID

My suggestion is to start the process of getting a new ID early. Even if you don’t fly often, or don’t plan to fly in the foreseeable future, I still suggest you get a compliant ID. You never know if something might come up that required you to travel. If that happened, you wouldn’t want to be ‘grounded’ because you didn’t have proper identification.

States are making the efforts to be federally compliant and they understand that every resident will eventually need one. They are making the effort to get this done in time. But don’t delay; the rush is sure to be ugly as October 2021 approaches. I am imagining throngs of people descending upon their local DMV offices at the last moment once they realize they will be denied by the TSA if they don’t have a REAL ID compliant license (or ID card.)

Some Additional Questions Answered

Do I Need a TSA Compliant ID To Vote?

No. The REAL ID requirements neither affect voter access nor voter registration processes.

What About International Travel?

REAL ID has no effect on the requirements for international travel. Every passenger still is required to have a valid passport for international travel. You will still need your passport to leave the country.

I know there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding the new TSA REAL ID air travel requirements. Please let me know in the comments section if you have any additional questions.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

15 comments
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15 comments

George Washington May 7, 2019 - 3:14 pm

Washington state is a loser. They wanted to help illegal aliens so the DL is NOT compliant. However, they got around the law saying you can buy a more expensive “enhanced driver’s license”. Many states issue DL that are compliant but not Washington state.

Reply
John August 4, 2019 - 2:04 pm

Just get a passport.
If you want less bulk for domestic flights, get a passport card.
Works not only in US airports but all airports.

Reply
Miles Jackson August 4, 2019 - 5:46 pm

John,
Great suggestion for travelers. The cost is $65 for adults (for the passport card alone.) A new US passport will run you $145 (renewal $110.) SO, if you were getting your passport for the first time ($145) and a passport card with it ($65) expect it to cost $210. Then pull out your passport card like a credit card from you wallet, billfold, purse or travel document carrier.

Reply
ZDENKO KRSTIC September 17, 2019 - 6:48 am

If you purchase a Compliant License could you then use the TSA Precheck line?

Reply
Miles Jackson September 17, 2019 - 8:24 am

ZDENKO-
No, sorry. One does not get TSA PreCheck without going through a separate process. But you’ll need a compliant ID to get through security either way.

Reply
Gary C October 2, 2019 - 11:03 am

My drivers license does not expire for another 4 years. It will cost $40 to get the enhanced one. Can I apply for a real ID for $10 and will that work to fly. I am on a fixed budget and cannot throw away money when not necessary.

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Miles Jackson October 2, 2019 - 1:42 pm

Hi Gary C-
Unfortunately no. You will be required to get a new driver’s license issued by your state (at whatever cost that is set by them.) The $10 is a surcharge added onto (in most jurisdictions) the standard cost for your driver’s license. You are forced to get a completely new identification (in this case, driver’s license) that complies with the REAL ID requirements.

Reply
Mike M October 6, 2019 - 3:55 pm

Ohio does, in fact, offer a compliant license with white star encased in a black circle, next to a gold version of the state of Ohio. I got one in April of 2019.

Reply
Miles Jackson October 6, 2019 - 4:01 pm

Hi Mike M-
Thanks for the comment. I’ve verified with the DHS website and updated the article to reflect that Ohio does have a REAL ID with a white star within a black circle, as you mentioned. Thanks for that!

Reply
Debit October 6, 2019 - 8:42 pm

Your link points to sgn archived DHS webpage.

Reply
Miles Jackson October 6, 2019 - 8:57 pm

Hi Debit –
Thanks for that catch. Guess the government doesn’t maintain that list anymore. However, I have updated the post with the current map as well as new link provided by the Department of Homeland Security for the latest information on States’ compliance with the new REAL ID requirements. Thanks for reading!

Reply
T October 7, 2019 - 1:01 am

How are they going to deal with people whose Real ID is lost/stolen at the destination? This could be particularly problematic if the destination (or the home state/territory) is not in the 48 contiguous states.

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Miles Jackson October 7, 2019 - 1:07 am

T-
That’s a great question and one that has come a few times in my research. However, no one seems to have a definitive answer and it will probably vary greatly for each issuing State. Bottom line is it will definitely be a huge problem if someone doesn’t have a backup (i.e. passport) identification so they could board a returning flight. Thanks for your input!

Reply
Jeanie October 9, 2019 - 8:46 am

I read recently that Global Entry is also acceptable. Can you verify this?

Reply
Miles Jackson October 9, 2019 - 5:00 pm

Hi Jeanie-
There are a lot of misunderstandings and mis-facts about REAL ID. Those who do not plan to fly after Sept. 30, 2020, can continue to use their current state-issued driver’s license until it expires. So can air travelers who have a valid U.S. passport or passport card, a military ID, a DHS Global Entry card, a permanent resident card or a passport issued by a foreign government.

Reply

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