How REAL ID Compliance Could Affect Travelers

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The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 based on the recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to prevent fraudulent issuance and use of driver's licenses and identification cards and to further ensure the safety and security of Americans. The Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards and prohibits Federal agencies (like the TSA) from accepting licenses and ID cards that do not meet these standards.

The impact on travel identification for domestic air travel

How will this affect your clients' travel plans? First, know that for travel, this only impacts travelers flying domestically. Passports are already REAL ID compliant, so this has no impact on international travel or passport applications or renewals.

Deadlines for states to meet

Second, know that there are a few deadlines that states need to meet, and those can change identification requirements for travelers. Starting January 22, 2018, domestic air travelers with a driver's license issued by a state that is not REAL ID compliant will need to show an alternative form of acceptable ID for domestic air travel. Acceptable forms of alternative ID include:


  • U.S. passport

  • U.S. passport card

  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)

  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)

  • For additional forms of ID, visit the TSA's website here

Then, starting October 1, 2020, every domestic air traveler must present a REAL ID compliant license or another acceptable form of ID in order to fly.

The Department of Homeland Security suggests that travelers check the REAL ID compliance status of their state on the DHS website. They have created a map where you can hover over the state you live in and quickly see whether or not your state is compliant. Check it out here.

It's also recommended that travelers review TSA's list of acceptable forms of ID (see the link in the bullets above) as well as check with their state's driver's licensing agency to learn how and when to acquire a REAL ID compliant license.

What will change after January 22, 2018

When this deadline is reached, travelers may need additional identification when traveling domestically. If the state the traveler lives in is not REAL ID compliant but has planned a vacation somewhere in the U.S., there is no need to change any travel plans. Just ensure that the traveler has an additional form of ID, as this will be requested by TSA.

That's a lot of's a summary

All travelers flying domestically will eventually need a REAL ID compliant license, but they are not yet available in every state. Recommend that if your clients have the opportunity to get a REAL ID compliant license in their state, they should take the necessary actions to get one. Right now, there is no need to adjust travel plans or rush to get a new ID.

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