Driver’s Licenses from Some States May Not Be Valid at Airports in 2016

By Paul Riegler on 29 December 2015
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A security checkpoint at SFO on Monday

A security checkpoint at SFO on Monday

The Department of Homeland Security said it would soon determine whether to enforce a law that requires all U.S. states to comply with federal standards when issuing driver’s licenses. The result would be that holders of driver’s licenses issued by multiple states would be unable to use their licenses as a form of identification at airport checkpoints across the nation.

The agency said it would issue a schedule as to when or if a driver’s license from a non-compliant state would no longer suffice for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft by the end of the year.

The Real ID Act, which passed Congress in 2005, includes a set of recommendations that states are asked to follow in issuing a driver’s license including asking for more stringent proof of identity, a social security number and proof of immigration status. The federal government cannot force states to comply with the new standards but it does have ways of gaining compliance in other ways.

So far, 22 states issue licenses that are in compliance and 19 states, while not fully compliant, have made sufficient progress so as to earn an extension. Four states are currently being reviewed for an extension. The five remaining states – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington – have been deemed “noncompliant” and holders of licenses from those states may have to use an alternate form of identification, such as a U.S. passport, for travel starting in April.

Some states have passed laws that bar motor vehicle departments from complying with the Real ID Act, citing privacy concerns.

The DHS, in a statement on its website, said it is phasing in enforcement of the standards. In October, it began to require that visitors to federal facilities including military bases and nuclear power plants show a driver’s license from a state that is in compliance with the law or use another form of ID. The next phase would impact “semi-restricted areas” open to the general public, although the agency said that it would not allow the change to interfere with access to Federal facilities “for purposes of applying for or receiving Federal benefits.” Following that phase would be airport security checkpoints in the United States.

Many experts believe that the agency would never move to that phase because of the confusion it would cause at security checkpoints and the fact that fewer than half of the population holds a current passport, a document that would serve as a valid form of identification in the event that a driver’s license was deemed unacceptable.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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