by Loren G. Edelstein | January 23, 2018
Jan. 22 was the official deadline for states to comply with the REAL ID Act, requiring stricter security measures for federally accepted identification, which includes ID for domestic air travel. To date, 21 states have not yet met those standards. They've made progress, though, and the Department of Homeland Security has granted those states an extension to Oct. 10, 2018.
Passed in 2005 on recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, the REAL ID Act requires that the federal government "set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses." The act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting noncompliant licenses for access to some federal facilities, nuclear power plants and - most important to the general public - commercial aircraft. In short, it's meant to prevent the use of fake IDs by requiring foolproof layers of authentification.
 
States have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation, according to the DHS, and every state has a more secure driver's license today than before the passage of the act. However, the original deadline of Jan. 22, 2018, was too aggressive for nearly half of the states to meet, thus the extension to Oct. 10 of this year. That's a flexible date, too; states can apply for an additional extension, which the DHS is likely to grant if states can demonstrate that compliance efforts are underway.
 
But the grace period eventually will come to an end. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license or other federally acceptable form of identification for domestic flights. And it's up to individuals to obtain the new licenses, which will not be sent to license-holders automatically.
 
Following are answers to common questions, plus a rundown of states' current compliance status, as updated last week by the Department of Homeland Security.
 
What is an enhanced driver's license?
State-issued enhanced drivers' licenses provide proof of identity and U.S. citizenship, are issued via a secure process and include technology that makes travel easier. They provide travelers with a low-cost, convenient alternative for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean through a land or sea port of entry, in addition to serving as a permit to drive.
 
Enhanced drivers' licenses make it easier for U.S. citizens to cross the border into the United States because they include a vicinity radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that will signal a secure system to pull up your biographic and biometric data for the Customs and Border Protection officer as you approach the border inspection booth, and a machine-readable zone, or barcode, that the CBP officer can read electronically if RFID isn't available.
 
The top 39 land ports of entry in the U.S., which process more than 95 percent of land-border crossings, are equipped with RFID technology that helps facilitate travel by individuals presenting enhanced drivers' licenses or one of the other RFID-enabled documents.
 
Which other forms of ID can I use if my driver's license is noncompliant?
The Transportation Security Administration currently accepts several other forms of identity documents and will continue to do so. Accepted forms of ID include a passport, border ID card, trusted-traveler card such as Global Entry, or permanent resident card. For more information on acceptable forms of identification for boarding aircraft, see TSA's website.
 
Which states currently issue REAL ID-complaint drivers' licenses?
Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Louisiana

Maryland
Michigan
Mississippi
Nebraska
Nevada
New Mexico
North Carolina
Ohio
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
 
Which states are noncompliant and have been granted the extension to Oct. 10, 2018?
Alaska
California
Idaho
Illinois
Kentucky
Maine
Massachusetts
Minnesota
Missouri
Montana
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Virginia
Washington
 
What happens when the extension expires? Is Oct. 10 a firm deadline?
The DHS might grant states with an expired extension a short grace period before federal agencies begin REAL ID enforcement. Extensions are renewable at the discretion of the DHS, provided the state has provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance. Renewal is not automatic. Extensions will be renewed only if the state demonstrates continuing progress in meeting the REAL ID standards.
 
How do I know if my state has achieved compliance?
You can check the status of your state at https://www.dhs.gov/real-id.
 
I have more questions. Whom can I ask?
Additional questions may be sent to the Department of Homeland Security at [email protected].