Your ID Card Might Not Get You on a Plane Starting Today


While the REAL ID Act got a lot of attention when it was first passed back in 2005, it is something that hasn’t been in the news all that much in recent months.  However, now that the Department of Homeland Security’s implementation deadline (January 22, 2018) is here, we thought it would be a great time to review the REAL ID Act and let you know how this could impact your travel plans.

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, there was a refocus on security in the United States.  This was especially true when it came to air travel.  One of the ways in which Homeland Security set out to improve security was to make the identification cards in this country more standardized.  They set out to do that with the REAL ID Act.

The REAL ID Act was designed to implement this standardization is phases.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, these phases began immediately and will be completed on October 1, 2020.  We have listed the important dates in the implementation of the REAL ID Act below for your review.

  • Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline below, and continue engagements with states to encourage compliance with REAL ID standards.
  • Effective on July 15, 2016, TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, will begin to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.
  • Effective on December 15, 2016, TSA will expand outreach at its airport checkpoints through signage, handouts, and other methods.
  • Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.  To check whether your state is compliant or has an extension, click here.  Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will still be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards.
  • Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.

This means that starting today, if you live in a state that hasn’t implemented the REAL ID standards and hasn’t secured an extension, you will need to provide alternative identification (such as a passport) to board any flight, even domestic ones.  Now, most states have either implemented the REAL ID standards or secured an extension, but if you are a resident of American Samoa, your identification card will not be sufficient for air travel starting today.  You will need your passport or another form of federally acceptable identification to board a flight.


The next date to mark on our calendars is October 1, 2020.  This is the date in which every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant identification card, or another form of identification that complies with new federal regulations, to fly either internationally or domestically.  For more information on the REAL ID law and its implementation, please refer to the REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions for the Public on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.

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