What makes Real ID so important for air travelers today

Real ID Reality is coming fast as Oct. 1 approaches

Real ID driver's license vs. Standard Issue driver's license for Pennsylvania, courtesy of the Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaFor air travelers, the Real ID Act “hard” deadline of October 1, 2020, is fast approaching. Many U.S. citizens and lawful residents already have their new Real ID, but for others, the deadline is approaching too fast. States who resisted Real ID have capitulated. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories plan to comply with the Real ID Act by October, 2020.

In 2005, based on recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, Congress enacted the Real ID Act. The law established the minimum security standards for drivers licenses and other identification cards issued by U.S. states and territories, to use at specific federal facilities and fly domestically in order to increase their security.

As of today, 45 states, three territories and the District of Columbia are compliant with the Real ID Act. All others have an extension, for now. Residents of states in compliance or with an extension to October, 2020, may use non-compliant driver’s licenses to fly domestically until then, but will need a Real ID license or other Real ID-compliant identification beginning on October 1, next year.

Here’s the status of the extension states and territories:

Maine is currently issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses. They are awaiting compliance certification. Maine has an extension to October, 2020.

New Jersey and Kentucky expect to begin issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses this year. They will likely get an extension to October, 2020.

Oklahoma and Oregon’s extensions run out this October. Despite not planning to start issuing Real ID-compliant licenses until next year, it’s likely they’ll get an extension to October, 2020.

Both the U.S. territories of American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands expect to issue Real ID-compliant licenses “soon;” American Samoa next year and Northern Marianas this year. They will likely get an extension to October, 2020.

Based on the Real ID plans of the few remaining non-compliant states and territories, plus Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) history of granting extensions, it appears that U.S. citizens and lawful residents without Real ID-compliant identification will be able to fly domestically in the U.S. through September, 2020.

Starting on October 1, 2020, U.S. citizens and lawful residents will need Real ID-compliant identification to fly domestically in the U.S. It can be a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, but it can also be a different compliant identification, such as a U.S. Passport or Passport Card, a DHS trusted traveler card, etc.

With U.S. states and territories in compliance or moving toward compliance to meet the Real ID deadline, the remaining problem for domestic air travelers is securing the necessary documents to obtain Real ID compliant identification.

For most U.S. citizens and legal residents, obtaining a Real ID compliant state driver’s license or non-driver’s ID won’t be difficult. For some, however, significant difficulties may interfere with their ability to obtain the new Real ID compliant identification. Without it, they won’t be permitted to fly domestically in the U.S. beginning October 1, 2020.

To obtain a Real ID driver’s license, U.S. citizens and lawful residents will need proof of their identity, proof of their Social Security number and proof of their residency. Most should have no trouble proving their Social Security number and residency. For those who can’t find their Social Security card, they can obtain a duplicate from the Social Security Administration at a Social Security office or for many, even online. Proof of residency is easily provided by a variety of documents, including W-2 forms, auto insurance cards, unexpired driver’s licenses, utility bills, etc.

The primary, potential problem for some Americans will be obtaining proof of their identity, which includes their lawful status. If you’re a U.S. citizen, for example, you have to prove it. If you have a valid U.S. passport or passport card, you’re set. In fact, if you don’t mind using them, you don’t have to obtain a Real ID-compliant state driver’s license or non-driver’s ID, as either your passport or passport card will suffice to fly domestically.

Without a passport or passport card, naturalized U.S. citizens will need their naturalization certificate. Citizens born in the U.S. will need a state- or territory-issued birth certificate with a raised or embossed seal. Hospital or midwifery birth certificates aren’t acceptable.

That’s where some may find trouble. If you can’t obtain a government issued birth certificate, you’re going to have to establish citizenship in another way and it won’t be easy. For example, many Latinos born in the Southwest who were delivered by midwives have been rebuffed over and over again by the U.S. Department of State in their effort to prove citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport.

With little more than a year to go before U.S. citizens and lawful residents will need Real ID-compliant identification to fly domestically, if you don’t have one, it’s time to ensure you have the documents necessary to obtain a Real ID or begin the process to secure them. Don’t wait until the last minute. It’s better to be prepared in case you need to fly for any reason.