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Real ID Act May Be A Real Pain For Some Air Travelers

Posted by bvalaw on September 24, 2015

One of the lesser-known responses to the 9/11 attacks was the passage of the Real ID Act in 2005 (the Act). According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Act is a joint effort between state and federal authorities to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents. This, in theory, should limit terrorists’ ability to circumvent detection with fraudulent identification.  Practically speaking, the Act sets out basic standards for state-issued identification and prohibits federal agencies, such as the FAA or TSA, from accepting identification that doesn’t meet the standard.

Phase 4 of the Act goes into effect on January 1, 2016.   After this date, boarding a federally regulated commercial aircraft will require a driver’s license or other valid identification from a compliant state. One from a non-compliant state will need to be used in conjunction with some other form of acceptable identification, such as a passport.

If your state has met all of the Act’s requirements, you will see no change in air travel procedures. Your standard driver’s license will continue to work. But, four states, including New York, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Minnesota, as well as American Samoa, have been deemed non-compliant with the Act’s requirements. This is because neither proof of residency nor proof of citizenship is required to obtain a drivers license in those jurisdictions. Therefore, unless things change, residents of those four states will need to present a valid passport at check-in and security, even if traveling domestically, after January 1. Just when you thought commercial air travel could not get any worse …