Why Your ID May Not Work at the Airport in 2018

What To Know About Real ID
North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles

The Real ID Act kicks in this year, which means your trusty driver's license may no longer qualify as a valid ID at the airport.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission's anti-terrorism recommendations set stricter standards for identification required for air travel. Congress subsequently passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. The act established minimum security standards for state-issued drivers licenses and prohibits the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) from accepting licenses and ID cards from states that do not meet these standards. These air travel anti-terrorism changes are effective on January 22, 2018.

 

REAL ID in a Nutshell

Until recently, some states had drivers licenses that were very easy to counterfeit. REAL ID is a more secure ID designed to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.

It is worth noting that REAL ID is not a national identification card. State DMVs will continue to issue driver’s licenses and ID cards, and there is no federal database of driver information. Each state will continue to issue its own unique license and maintain its own records.

Do we currently need passports or REAL IDs to fly within the US?

For now, your state driver's license is still fine as an ID when you fly. In many states, you can already apply to get a compliant ID by visiting your local DMV.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin implementing REAL ID enforcement at US airports in January 2018. By October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license (or another acceptable form of ID such as a passport) for domestic air travel.

What IDs are acceptable for flying within the US?

Until the DHS begins enforcing REAL IDs at US airports, the TSA will continue numerous forms of acceptable ID for air travel within the US, including: 

  • DMV-issued drivers licenses or other state photo ID cards
  • U.S. passports
  • U.S. passport cards
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident cards (green cards)
  • Border crossing cards
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver's licenses
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo IDs
  • HSPD-12 PIV cards
  • Foreign government-issued passports
  • Canadian provincial driver's licenses or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada cards
  • Transportation worker identification credential

Do children need a REAL ID to fly within the US?

Flying with kids? For travel within the United States, the TSA does not require children under age 18 to provide ID when traveling with an adult companion who has acceptable identification. 

Is my state compliant with REAL ID?

Most states have made considerable progress in meeting key recommendations and every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before 2005. At this time 35 states and territories are 100-percent compliant with the standards set by REAL ID. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The following states are still working on it and either have applied for or have been granted extensions.

  • Alaska has been granted an extension through June 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. Alaskans can apply for compliant ID beginning January 2019.
  • California has an extension through October 10, 2018. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. Californians can apply for a new compliant ID at the DMV starting January 22, 2018.
  • Illinois has an extension through June 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. 
  • Kentucky has an extension through August 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. Residents can apply for a REAL ID beginning in mid-2019.
  • Maine has been granted an extension through October 10, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. The state expects to issue REAL ID compliant licenses beginning July 2019.
  • Massachusetts has an extension through October 10, 2018. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. Residents can apply for REAL IDs beginning late March 2018.
  • Minnesota has an extension through March 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane.
  • Missouri has an extension through August 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane.
  • Montana has an extension through June 1, 2019. Montana residents can currently apply for a compliant ID.
  • New Jersey has an extension through October 10, 2018. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane.
  • Oklahoma has an extension through October 10, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. Oklahoma will make compliant IDs available sometime in mid-2019.
  • Oregon has an extension through October 10, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. Oregonians can get a REAL ID beginning July 2020.
  • Pennsylvania has been granted an extension through August 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane. The state expects to make REAL IDs available in 2019.
  • Rhode Island has an extension through May 1, 2019. Afterward, a passport or federal ID will be necessary to board a plane.
  • Virginia has been granted an extension through October 10, 2018. Virginians can apply for a REAL ID beginning that month.

    Will REAL ID force us to change our vacation plans?

    It's a good idea to find out whether your own ID is compliant. If your state is already compliant with REAL ID standards, you can go to the DMV to get an updated REAL ID driver's license.

    If your state has been granted an extension to become compliant with REAL ID standard, you can use your current ID as your form of identification through the extension date. After the extension date, you will need a passport or passport card.

    Don't own a passport? Here's how to obtain a US passport or a less-expensive passport card, which permits you to travel within the US and to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

    Note that you do not need a passport to fly to US territories such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.