The Real ID program: Why your driver’s license is no longer acceptable for boarding a flight

Real ID, driver's license, passport renewal, travel documents

Earlier, we discussed the five most important things you must know before traveling or renewing your passport in 2018. In this blog post we’re focusing on the new requirements concerning driver’s licenses and other forms of identification under the Real ID Act. We will also discuss what documents now let passengers board a domestic flight.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has already begun posting signs in airports to inform travelers about the Real ID Program. It’s a set of new rules that define valid forms of identification for boarding planes. Now more than ever, the best way to avoid any hassle before going on a trip is to manage your travel documents in advance.


What is the Real ID program and how does it affect my traveling?

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act aiming to eliminate fake IDs in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to the project, US states and territories were supposed to enforce stricter requirements when issuing IDs, such as demanding more proof of identity.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security introduced the Real ID program. State administrations have to adopt stricter security measures for driver’s licenses and other forms of identification as a preventive measure from forgeries and potential terrorism. Thirteen years after the act was passed, only half of the states have complied with the congressional program.

“Given today’s threat environment, this requirement is as relevant now as it was when the 9/11 Commission recommended it” said Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security, while announcing the 2018 deadlines.

To make compliance obligatory, the airlines are going to bar passengers if their identifying documents aren’t compliant with Real ID requirements.


When does the Real ID program come into effect in my state?

Twenty six states and territories comply with the Real ID program. Louisiana, Michigan and New York join 23 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands, that have been given extensions to comply with Real ID. American Samoa is not in compliance with the Real ID Act. Since February, federal agencies do not accept driver’s licenses and identification cards from American Samoa.


How long will it take to adopt the Real ID and what documents can I use?

Besides the effect on flights, residents of the eight non-compliant states, other than Oklahoma, won’t be able to use their driver’s licenses to enter federal agencies or nuclear power plants since legislation came into effect on Jan. 30, 2017.

Residents of five states – Alaska, California, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia – were granted federal extensions for using their driver’s licenses to enter federal agencies through June 6th.

Starting October 1, 2020, every domestic air traveler will be required to carry identifying documents that are Real ID-compliant. Remember, a US passport card and passport book are both acceptable forms of ID. However, if you don’t have either, you should obtain a passport or a Real ID compliant license as soon as possible.



Complete and share contracts, agreements and official forms from any device with PDFfiller.

Get a 30-day free trial