In our post “How to Breeze through Airport Security,” one thing we didn’t mention was to be sure you had an accepted form of identification. For Americans, your state driver’s license has always been accepted. But recently, a rash of headlines have been warning that might not be the case in 2016. Is that true? Will you be turned away by the TSA? For most travelers, the answer is no but, for residents from about nine states, that could happen. Just not yet.
In 2005, following recommendations from the 9/11 Committee, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which requires states to obtain more proof of identity before issuing a driver’s license. Many states already did so but several objected, citing personal privacy concerns. The deadline for compliance was set for 2016, and Homeland Security says there will be no more extensions. As of December 31st, licenses from nine states and possessions still don’t meet the new Real ID standards: Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington State, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But there is a “but”…
While 2016 is the deadline, the new rules are not in effect yet. The Department of Homeland Security is in the planning process for implementing REAL ID enforcement at airports, which means your driver’s license from any U.S. state or possession is still valid for air travel. Once enforcement plans are finalized, travelers will be advised at least 120 days before any new rules take effect. Of course, a variety of other government-issued IDs are valid for air travel, including U.S. and foreign-issued passports, Permanent Resident cards, military ID, and DHS trusted traveler cards, such as Global Entry and NEXUS, among others. (The full list can be found at TSA.gov.)
Update: January 10th was the date that driver’s licenses from most of the states in question were set to no longer be accepted by the TSA. As of January 11th, the government has granted states another extension, this time until January 22, 2018, to comply with the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005. So, for the time being, the answer is Yes, your driver’s license will still get you past the TSA.