Last updated: 12:30 PM ET, Mon January 11 2016

Real ID Deadline Extended To January 2018

Airlines & Airports | Transportation Security Administration | Josh Lew | January 11, 2016

Real ID Deadline Extended To January 2018

Photo courtesy of Department of Homeland Security

States that have yet to comply with the Real ID Act are getting a major break. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh C. Johnson, announced a new timeline for implementing the more-secure ID plan. Just a short time ago, Washington had granted states that had not yet complied with the Act an extension beyond a vague Jan. 1, 2016 deadline. These states expected to have to rush a plan though their legislatures early this year. 

A firm (but far-off) deadline for Real ID compliance

That won’t be necessary now. The timeline announced by Johnson has a firm final deadline for full Real ID compliance. However, that deadline is Jan. 22, 2018. This gives states two additional years to come up with and implement an ID plan. 

The two-year delay was necessary because less than half of the states in the US have met all the Real ID requirements. In the statement, Johnson said that only 23 states were “fully compliant” at this time. Five states are completely non-compliant and were not given any extensions beyond Jan. 1 of this year. They are Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington. 22 states had not fully met the requirements of the Act, but were given extensions of various lengths because they were working towards implementation. 

An ongoing debate

The Real ID Act dates all the way back to 2005. Why are some states still ignoring it? The main complaint is that the Real ID is, in effect, a national identification card, even though it will be issued by the states. This would, according to critics, infringe on states' rights to make ID rules as they see fit. Some have gone as far as saying that the whole concept of Real ID goes against the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

Others, such as the ACLU, say that Real IDs will be harder to obtain, but, if they replace drivers' licenses, will be needed for basic tasks such as opening a bank account, accessing government services and getting past a TSA security checkpoint at the airport.

Then, of course, there is the ongoing debate about privacy and government overreach.   

Some state governments have spent the last decade debating about these potential problems rather than trying to comply with the Act. 

Nothing to worry about yet

What does all this mean for travelers? Nothing yet. Per the DHS statement: “Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel.  Until January 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel. Passengers can also continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA (such as a Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID).” 
Homeland Security has also set up a special page so that residents of non-compliant states can track their local government’s progress with implementing the Act. Two years is a long time, and there will most likely be challenges from some states or rights groups in the mean time. Perhaps the legality of Real IDs will end up being decided by the Supreme Court. 

Alternative IDs could be necessary for fliers from non-compliant states

So fliers do not have to worry about anything just yet. However, they will soon be seeing an increase in the amount of signage and information about Real ID requirements. DHS is working with airports to “get the word out” about the new requirements. 

Even if some states do not comply, their residents will still be able to travel after the 2018 deadline. Other forms of “secure” identification could be used in lieu of a Real ID: A US passport or passport card, a permanent resident card (for non-citizens), a US Military ID, and other various DHS-approved documents. 

For now, there is nothing for fliers to worry about. However, if your state is still debating Real IDs during the 2017 legislative session, it may be time to apply for a passport if you do not yet have one. 


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