Beginning in 2016, some U.S. residents may need more than their driver's license to board domestic flights.
The reason? A 10-year-old piece of legislation called the Real ID Act. Passed by Congress in 2005, the multi-pronged law requires that states meet certain federal security standards for driver's licenses and ID cards, including what data must appear on the card and how it is encoded. Under the law, federal agencies, including the TSA, are prohibited from accepting licenses and IDs from states that don’t comply with those standards.
Related: 5 Ways to Cut Business Travel Costs
The rollout of the law has been riddled with delays and extensions, but the Department of Homeland Security is expected to soon release a schedule for when airports must enforce it. When that happens, residents of any state that has failed to issue compliant licenses will have to present another form of ID including a passport, U.S. Military ID or permanent resident card. States will be given at least 120 days notice before the rules are enforced.
Air travel is just one piece of the law; the other parts relate to access to federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants. As of this past October, to enter a federal facility or nuclear plant, only a driver’s license or state ID card from a compliant state, or a state that has been granted an extension, is accepted.
On Jan. 10, 2016, residents of Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington -- states that have not been granted an extension from the DHS -- should be aware that if they are going to visit a federal facility, they will need to bring another form of ID, since their driver’s licenses won’t be enough to get in. Residents of those states can still use their licenses as valid ID for air travel until that portion of the law is enforced.
Minnesota’s case is notable in that lawmakers enacted a law in 2009 that banned compliance with the new rules due to cost and privacy concerns. But with enforcement for air travel looming, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton asked for an extension. The DHS rejected it last week.
So what exactly do compliant licenses need to have? For one, they must come with a chip or magnetic strip to store the holder's information, which will be stored within a database that can be shared with other states. In addition, those applying for a license need to provide their DMV with documentation that they aren't lying about their identity, including their immigration status and their Social Security number.
Those who agree with the legislation say that having of this kind of information available can only make the country safer; others are concerned about not only the costs of these upgrades but what it means for citizens’ privacy.
To keep an eye on your state’s status, check out the information on the DHS website.