There’s been a lot of news of late about the expiration of driver’s license regulations for New York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Minnesota and American Samoa. In a nutshell, here’s the issue: The Real ID Act was enacted in 2005 to ensure security protocols that are better for flights. Here is the wording (bolding and ellipses are mine):
“Secure driver’s licenses and identification records are an essential part of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act … enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of resources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established minimum safety criteria for permit issuance … and also prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for specific functions driver’s licenses and identification cards in states not fulfilling the Act’s minimum standards. The functions covered by the Act are: obtaining Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.”
Most states meet the requirements for driver’s licenses (essentially, they have a chip which makes it more difficult to forge licenses), so that is going to be sufficient to board flights. Nevertheless, territory and the four states do not.
Some media outlets are saying that as of January 1, 2016, you will not manage to board a flight with one of these licenses, however that’s not technically accurate. The act states that Phase 4 (the one we’re worried about) will be enforced “no earlier than 2016” — that means that is when they’ll begin addressing what to do about it. It does NOT say that effective Jan 1, 2016 they’ll be implementing it across the board — merely that that’s if they begin figuring out a solution.
Traveling insiders are predicting that the federal government will work something out with the states to bring them into compliance, and that means you’ll have the ability to fly domestically without a passport. However, there are no guarantees, of course.
If you live in one of those states, so what should you do?
1. Don’t panic. Chances are, the states will work out this in the best interest of everybody involved. TSA itself has said, “DHS provides ample notice to the public once decisions are made.”
2. Submit an application for a passport anyhow, not from fear but because it is great to have and opens up a totally new universe of travel for you!
3. Stick to the news, and if you are living in one of those states, consult your regional airport for updates as we approach the end of 2015.
4. Eventually, for official info, hit out to the DHS Office of State-Issued Identification Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope this helps alleviate your nerves!