Despite being 15 years in the making, U.S. travel data shows that 57% of Americans are still not aware of the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline for Real ID, 2/3 of Americans don’t have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, and 1/2 of Americans still don’t have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license OR other accepted form of ID (such as U.S. passport, military ID, Global Entry card, etc.).
The U.S. government agencies are realizing what a mess airports are going to be, not only on the first day of October, but in the days, weeks and possibly months beyond it, because so many passengers potentially won’t have appropriate ID when they get to the TSA security checkpoint. So different arms of the government are looking into ways to make the transition easier.
What is Real ID?
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, “Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.”
As of this writing, 48 states issue driver’s licenses that are Real ID compliant (Oregon and Oklahoma are the only 2 that are not). Of our 5 American territories, three (Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are Real ID compliant, American Samoa is under review, and Northern Mariana Islands has an extension that expires 10/1/20.
What will happen if you don’t have a Real ID in time for the Oct. 1 deadline?
Drivers licenses that are Real ID compliant have a star on the front side, in the upper right-hand corner. However, you don’t officially have to get a new driver’s license, with the star, until your current one expires. But if you plan on flying before then, you may really want to consider getting one. And that’s where the craziness is going to happen this October.
Say that Karen’s state became Real ID compliant 5 years ago. But she was too busy bumping into United 1k Milers to notice the upcoming rules about having a Real ID compliant driver’s license. Her current license, which she got 6 years ago, doesn’t expire for another year. She has a flight to JFK at 7:05am on October 1. Boy is SHE gonna be surprised when she can’t get through security.
Multiply that scenario times however many thousands upon thousands of people who won’t have an appropriate ID, and that’s what U.S. airports are going to be filled with, come Oct. 1st and behind.
What’s the government doing about this?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as other government entities realize that come Oct. 1, airports are going to have a disaster on their hands unless they do something proactively. So this is what’s been happening:
- DHS is urging the states, District of Columbia, and U.S. territory officials to act to ensure that all their eligible residents obtain driver’s licenses or identification cards that meet these enhanced security standards.
- DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf sent letters to state governors, informing them that states may allow online submission of identity and lawful-status source documents through a secure electronic process, prior to an applicant’s in-person visit to their state’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The move, he said, should “result in a faster, more streamlined process for DMVs and the American public.”
- Citing the potential for “mass confusion, chaos and delays” at US airports beginning on Oct. 1, members of Congress have introduced legislation to decrease travel disruption caused by the Real ID deadline. The Trusted Traveler Real ID Relief Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), would allow TSA Precheck membership to serve as a temporary alternative to a Real ID at domestic airports, enable people to apply for the IDs online and create a plan for the TSA to vet people who show up without Real IDs.
What should I do?
If you have plans to travel on or after October 1st:
- Assuming you live in a state that issues them, make sure every adult member of your party has a Real ID compliant driver’s license. Don’t wait until the last minute to try to get one/them.
- If you can’t/won’t get a Real ID driver’s license by October 1st, have all adults bring their U.S. passport, military ID, or Global Entry card with them to the airport, as those are also accepted forms of ID.
- Consider getting TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR, if you don’t have them already. Those lines will have people who don’t have Real ID compliant driver’s licenses as well, but not as many, since those lines are, so far, traditionally shorter.
- Arrive at the airport EARLY. There WILL be delays.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary