Beginning Jan. 22, 2018, a single driver’s license will no longer suffice as an acceptable form of identification for domestic travel within the United States.
Thanks to increased, tighter standards for state-issued ID’s established in the Real ID Act (passed by Congress in 2005 in the fevered wake of ubiquitous, post-9/11 security frenzy), all adults boarding any federally regulated aircraft — including domestic U.S. flights — must have an “enhanced ID” (Real ID); otherwise, they will be required to present an additional, alternative form of acceptable identification, unless they reside in one of the 26 states granted extensions through Oct. 10, 2018.
This is the final phase of the Real ID Act, which aims to “prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft,” according to Steve Yonkers, the Department of Homeland Security‘s director of Real ID.
All 50 states are currently in the process of implementing Real ID programs. Twenty-eight states and territories are already fully compliant and 26 have been granted extensions through Oct. 10, 2018. Just two territories, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands, are still under review for an extension.
Residents of a state that has transitioned to issuing Real IDs have the option to go in and get a new, compliant license or use their passport when they fly. (If you go to the airport without proper ID, you may still be allowed to fly if the TSA can confirm your identity using a public database. If your identity cannot be verified, you will not be allowed through security.)
Travelers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that has been granted an extension will still be able to use their driver’s licenses in the interim.
But starting Oct. 1, 2020, every U.S. air traveler will need a Real ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of ID, for domestic air travel.