After the horrific events of 9/11, the topic of REAL ID came into being in 2005, when Congress said states needed to modify their driver’s licenses and official State IDs as part of the fight against terrorism.
After 15 years of planning, and what will ultimately be a (so far) 6-year delay, the Department of Homeland Security is probably letting out a sigh of relief that all 50 states are finally issuing REAL ID state IDs (Oklahoma was the last holdout). With the latest delay in implementation due to COVID-19 (back in late March, the deadline was switched from Oct 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021), all the states are even finished over a year ahead of time (instead of 3 weeks early).
Unfortunately, getting all the states to be compliant in issues REAL ID drivers licenses is only part of the battle.
Next up? Ensuring that all citizens who plan to fly have I.D. cards that are REAL ID compliant.
Since some U.S. states and territories began their REAL ID programs years ago, about 105 million REAL-ID driver’s licenses and identification cards have been issued. Unfortunately, that only represents about 38% of people who have a U.S. driver’s license or identification card. And that’s a problem. Normally U.S. citizens get a new driver’s license every 4 to 12 years, depending on what state you live in. But if you don’t have REAL ID by October 1, 2021 and plan to fly, you need to get a new driver’s license that’s REAL ID compliant, whether your current license is ready to expire or not. Either that, or make sure you have one of the other types of I.D. that are allowable.
Most states allow online or snail-mailed applications, but not all do. Nor do all people know that, come October next year, the driver’s license that’s been working fine as ID for the past, say, 11 years (Arizona’s driver’s licenses are good for 12 years), suddenly won’t be. So the next step is to make all these millions upon millions of would-be flyers aware of what’s coming down the pike and what they need to do.
Before COVID, the TSA was already trying to avoid what was sure to be an ID-related meltdown in October by putting certain measures into place. I’m sure they’ll be working on that again, as October 1, 2021 looms closer.
But still…can you believe that all 50 states are finally REAL ID compliant?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary