The Real ID Act is about to be a real pain for air travelers. The law was passed by Congress in 2005 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in hopes of establishing minimum standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards. The idea is that it would prevent identity theft and increase national safety. For travelers, it means that starting on October 1, 2020, anyone who resides in the United States, even if they’re flying domestically or to U.S. territories, will need Real ID identification to pass through TSA security checkpoints at airports.
As of October 2018, 37 states, territories, and the District of Columbia are Real ID compliant, per DHS. The other 19 jurisdictions (states and territories) are noncompliant, but have been granted a temporary extension from enforcement. Some of those noncompliant states include California, Illinois, and New Jersey, home to some of the largest airports in the U.S.
If you want to see where your state stands on the Real ID rollout, the DHS’s website has a clickable map. (U.S. passports are already compliant.)
As for when the Real ID rollouts will begin in the noncompliant states, it’s complicated. As the Patriot-Ledger points out, Massachusetts is now compliant, but people aren’t exactly flocking to the DMV to get their new Real IDs, even though the deadline is looming. Perhaps that’s because residents must physically go to a DMV office with their identification documents—such as a birth certificate and passport—and who has time for that? Additionally, just today NJ.com published an op-ed by that state’s former public advocate calling for New Jersey to ensure that “the privacy violations and bureaucratic nightmares of the federal Real ID Act” not be passed along to New Jersey residents, noting that the ACLU had to halt the rollout of New Jersey’s previous attempt to comply with the Real ID Act.
Still, unless the government grants another extension, travelers will want to be prepared. Skift spoke with several travel advisors and they all seem to say the same thing: Get your paperwork in now, because 2020 is coming sooner than you think and no one wants to buy a ticket, pack, and then drive to the airport just to be turned away at the gate.