US travelers warned about mandatory Real-ID requirement changes

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US states are rushing to become Real-ID compliant in response to federal legislation, which set new, more stringent minimum standards for identification that will be accepted at airport security stations. Travelers not presenting a Real-ID license or ID by the deadline will be denied access to all federal facilities, including boarding commercial aircraft.

Real-ID Identification

In an attempt to set a minimum standard for airport and federal-building security within the nation, the Real-ID Act was passed in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. The law essentially raised standards for state agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles, requiring applicants to present more paperwork with Social Security Numbers and proof of residency for issued licenses and identification cards. Both the upgraded driver’s licenses and ID cards are also now constructed with greater technology to make them more difficult to forge.

The law can be a confusing issue for travelers. Compliance with the law is proved via state-issued IDs or a driver’s license, usually signified by the presence of a black or gold star on the front of the card. A non-compliant card will present the words “Not for Federal Identification” or “Federal Limits Apply.” Unfortunately though, these are simply rules of thumb.

Legal compliance does not yet require overt displays, and some states have issued compliant IDs without the recognizable star. Further complicating the matter, lack of compliance in no way affects a person’s ability to legally drive, vote, apply for federal benefits or participate in law enforcement proceedings.

Though the federal government has delayed full implementation of the law for over a decade, it has finally set a firm deadline of Oct. 1, 2020 for full compliance from all 50 states and territories. Travelers not displaying a Real-ID by this deadline will no longer be able to board domestic flights.

Most states are already fully aligned with the law or are extremely close to reaching that status, and new licenses and ID cards in these states are issued with a star in the top right corner. This is the good news. The bad news is that not all states are ready, and not all travelers in compliant states are carrying proper IDs.

Living in a compliant state does not guarantee travel rights. Travelers must renew their IDs and licenses before the 2020 deadline to ensure they will be permitted through airport security. A full list of states and their status can be found in both map and table formats via the Upgraded Points study.

Though the list of states and territories that are not currently compliant is short, it is significant. And some states are working with extensions. For instance: New Jersey is still not fully compliant, but is working on an extension through October 10 2019. California’s status is also pending approval by the federal government, and is under review through May 24, 2019. Each state’s status is analyzed in full detail via the Upgraded Points study.

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