What You Need To Know About The U.S. REAL I.D. Act

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  • Post category:Travel

While October 2020 may be a little over a year away, there are some new laws going into effect then that every American needs to be aware of, especially if you plan on accessing government buildings or traveling by air domestically.

If you plan on visiting the Washington Monument, Smithsonian Museum, or the White House on a tour, this is important information that you need to know before you visit.

What Is The REAL I.D. Act?

The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, 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 license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Government buildings not only include courthouses but also capital buildings, the Washington Monument, The Smithsonian Museum, and other government buildings that are also tourist attractions.

Driver License ID

Beginning in October 2020, all U.S. citizens flying domestically must product an enhanced drivers license or I.D. Card, Military I.D., or Passport in order to go through TSA security checkpoints.  There are alternate forms of I.D. that can be used, a comprehensive list is provided below.

If you are a foreign tourist traveling in the U.S., your passport and boarding pass will be the only documentation you should need to pass through the TSA checkpoints at any U.S. airport.

Are All States Are Affected?

All U.S. States and Territories are required to be compliant by next year unless they were granted extensions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Currently, there are only 6 states or U.S. territories that are not on board and have received an extension to be compliant with the program, they are:

  1. Oregan
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Maine
  4. New Jersey
  5. American Samoa
  6. Northern Mariana Islands


Are There Other Forms of I.D. I Can Use?

While a U.S. Driver’s License, state-issued I.D., Military I.D. or Passport are the most common forms of I.D., there are alternative forms that will be accepted as well?

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential

It is important to know that temporary I.D.’s or temporary driver’s license documents are NOT valid for air travel.  Also, a permit for carrying a firearm is not a valid form of I.D. for domestic air travel in the U.S. or accessibility to government buildings.  Most government buildings in the U.S. do not permit firearms anyway.

What do I Need To Do?

If you have renewed your driver’s license or I.D. card withing the past year or two, chances are you are already compliant and don’t need to do anything else.

While some states will have the words “Enhanced Drivers License”, others may have an American Flag or, like here in Texas, a star in one corner.

You can check with your state’s licensing office to find out what the enhanced I.D. looks like where you live.

Can I Fly Without The Correct I.D.?

According to the TSA, they have not exactly figured out just yet what they will do if someone shows up without the correct I.D.

They are working with the Department of Homeland Security to come up with policies and procedures on just how to address the issue.

At this point, with all of the communication around this from the media, online, and of course, us bloggers, saying you didn’t know about the changes is bound to not be a valid excuse for very long.

Check your I.D. now, if you are unsure if it’s the enhanced version, go to your state’s DMV website and check.  Better to be sure now than to be turned away from a flight or denied access to a great place like the Smithsonian later.

Visit the Department of Homeland Security website for more in-depth information.




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