Is Your State’s Driver’s License Ready for Travel? Here Is An Update on Real ID Rules

By Anna Breuer on 24 January 2018
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If you recently noticed a sign near the TSA security checkpoint portending that federal agencies would soon discontinue accepting driver’s licenses issued by certain states, it wasn’t a mistake: just blame the Real ID Act of 2005.

One item generating an inordinate amount of buzz is this sentence on the Department of Homeland Security’s website:

“Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.”


However, with very few exceptions, nothing will ultimately change for travelers on January 22. Here’s why.


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.

Congress passed the act as part of overall recommendations by the 9/11 Commission in order to stem the use of fake IDs.


According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are 28 states that are now Real ID compliant (the list includes Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas) and 26 states and territories that, while not fully compliant, have made sufficient progress so as to earn an extension.

As of the time of publication, only residents of two U.S. territories, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands, might be unable to use driver’s licenses as identification at airport security checkpoints because they are both still under review to get an extension from DHS.

Starting in 2020, all travelers will need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license if they are using it as a form of identification. If you typically use your passport or Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler card, those will continue to be accepted.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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