U.S. air travelers will need enhanced IDs— for real this time

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After 13 years of delays, waivers, and extensions, a final deadline has been set for states to comply with the provisions of the REAL ID Act. The law, passed back in 2005 at the recommendation of the 9/11 commission, sets standards for identification necessary to board planes and enter secure installations.

The new standards were designed to make the documents harder to forge, improve data sharing, verify Social Security numbers and immigration status and be machine readable. Previously, the Department of Homeland Security was granting extensions to states that were having difficulty complying with the terms of the Act so that people with state-issued IDs would not be disadvantaged.

The new hard deadline means an end to those grace periods. After October 10 of this year, identification that does not comply will be considered invalid for air travel. Compliant ID will need to be presented, or else travelers will be turned away, according to the administration. The 23 states currently operating under extensions have until then to become compliant, with the DHS saying no further extensions will be granted. 

The new time limit is seen by many as a way of compelling slow-acting states into conforming with the provisions of the law, a process that has dragged on and frustrated federal authorities. “It has been 12 years since the REAL ID Act was passed,” declares the Homeland Security website, which goes one to say, “It is time that the remaining jurisdictions turn their commitments to secure identification into action.”

Some states such as California, Michigan and Minnesota are planning to offer residents the choice of a Real ID compliant or traditional identification amid concerns regarding privacy and personal information. It is still not clear exactly whether the DHS will follow through and strictly enforce this deadline, or if they will again allow states some leeway in good faith. However, travelers are advised to take the deadline seriously, and be proactive about securing proper identification to ensure that they won’t be inconvenienced.

Check whether your state is complaint or operating under an extension here.

Find more information on Real ID and air travel here, including a list of alternative forms of identification here.

Check out our previous reporting on the subject for more details on the issue here.