3 New Travel Laws That Could Affect Your Travels

Passports and accepted photo IDs in the center of planned changes

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Every year, travelers face a changing set of regulations that could prevent them from traveling while abroad. While some of them revolve around varying visa changes and regulations, the next set of rule changes will hit much closer to home. New laws set to go into effect on January 1, 2016 will revolve around how travelers identify themselves before boarding a commercial aircraft and when arriving in a new destination.

Prior to departure, make sure your acceptable forms of identity are packed and prepared – otherwise, you could be in for an even longer wait at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint. Here are three laws that may affect how (and where) you travel in 2016.  

REAL IDs will soon be required for air travel

Passed in 2005 and adopted by the Department of Homeland Security, the REAL ID Act put new guidelines into effect as to the requirements of federally-accepted identification documents, such as driver's licenses. While most states are now in compliance with REAL ID guidelines, four states and one American possession currently issue driver's licenses outside of those guidelines. New York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Minnesota, and possession American Samoa currently issue non-compliant identification cards. While they are still considered legal state-issued identification, they do not comply with the standards set by REAL ID.

Although the Department of Homeland Security announced that the REAL ID act would be enforced in 2016, they have changed course on it's final implementation. In a press release, the department announced all air travelers would be required to carry a REAL ID by January 22, 2018 in order to board a commercial aircraft.


As a result, over 31 million Americans may be affected if they present a non-compliant state-issued ID for domestic travel. Starting January 22, 2018, travelers will be allowed to present a secondary form of identification if they are traveling without a REAL ID-compliant identification card. By 2020, travelers without a REAL ID-compliant card will be turned away from the checkpoint.

Although travelers are two years away from REAL ID act enforcement, now may be the time to consider carrying an alternative identification for travel. Those living in the soon-to-be affected states may consider purchasing a passport card for $55. The passport card acts as similarly to a passport book while traveling through the Americas by land or sea, and is an accepted ID by the TSA. However, this plan may only work if travelers are current with their taxes.

IRS can withhold passport issuing for tax delinquents

As part of a new bill for federal highway funding, lawmakers have inserted a provision that could prevent tax-delinquent jetsetters from seeing the world around them. The Wall Street Journal reports the new regulation would go into effect on January 1, 2016, and will prevent anyone who has at least $50,000 in unpaid taxes from applying for or renewing their passports.

Furthermore, the new law could allow the IRS to rescind travel privileges provided by a passport to delinquent travelers.

The new regulation does come with a set of guidelines. The travelers who would be affected by this are those who are subject to a tax lien on their persons, but could have their passport privileges restored by contesting the delinquent taxes in court or working with the IRS to repay the debt. Furthermore, in the event of a humanitarian emergency, the State Department would not be able to withhold a passport due to tax liens.

Additional visa pages will no longer be allowed

Finally, frequent international travelers who love traveling abroad have often added additional pages to their passports in order to store all of their visa stamps. However, that policy will no longer be an option for frequent flyers.

Starting January 1, 2016, frequent international travelers will no longer be able to order an additional 24 visa page insert for their existing passport books. Instead, travelers will have two options: either request a new passport when the pages have been filled, or opt for a larger, 52-page passport book when it comes time to renew. For those travelers who see the world on a regular basis, it may be time to apply for a second passport book ahead of their next adventure.

Although travel regulations are always subject to change, there are many ways to prepare before the next trip. By understanding how the laws are changing, travelers can make sure their travels continue to move smoothly and efficiently at every turn.