Do you remember the days when we could walk to the gate and greet our loved ones or send them off and when security was a simple walk thru? On this side of 9/11,  the world of travel has been impacted along with everything else that once was. Directly related to those attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID ACT in 2005 which was enacted after the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government set the standards for the issuance of sources of identification, including driver’s licenses. There are minimum requirements that each state must comply with in order for the individual to be able to use their state-issued licenses and cards with Federal Agencies, including the TSA. While the individual states have made advancements in the meeting this requirement, there are still those that are not in a full compliance.

The Department of Homeland Security is implementing the impact on air travel in stages and as of January 2016 the DHS issued the following timeline for the REAL ID ACT to be fully engaged:

  • “Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline below, and continue engagements with states to encourage compliance with REAL ID standards.
  • Starting July 15, 2016, TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, will begin to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.
  • Starting December 15, 2016, TSA will expand outreach at its airport checkpoints through signage, handouts, and other methods.
  • Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.  To check whether your state is compliant or has an extension, click here.  Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will still be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards.
  • Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.

This timetable recognizes that some states must change their laws to comply with the REAL ID Act. It is also designed to provide an opportunity for members of the public to learn more about the implications of not having a REAL ID-compliant license, and so that individuals have an ample opportunity to replace their pre-REAL ID licenses with new compliant licenses or to obtain another acceptable form of identification.”

To see which states are currently compliant or have extensions please go to either of these links: or

Now what will happen in 2018 when you show up without a compliant ID? While DHS has extended the time line in hopes that all states will be in compliance by then, the reality is they are prepared for some not to be and they are also giving the individual citizen time to acquire alternate forms of ID if their states haven’t completed the compliancy requirements. The traveler will be turned away if a correct ID or alternate is not presented. (to see acceptable identification follow this link: )

For obvious reasons, passport offices across the country have been on overload and in these last weeks. An appeal went out to the general public that if you have a passport set for renewal in 2016 or will need a new one this year, to begin the process now as it can take additional time due to the volume of travelers that are anticipated by year’s end.

All in all it is really very simple. Keep your passport and other forms of acceptable ID current. Maintain your driver’s license and if your state is not compliant by January of 2018 you will have another form that is acceptable to use.

Will all states comply? One would hope but the truth is this: “REAL ID is a mandate on Federal agencies, restricting the circumstances under which they may accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards for official purposes.  Participation by states is voluntary, although Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or identification cards from noncompliant states for official purposes (e.g., boarding aircraft, accessing federal facilities, and entering nuclear power plants)” from the DHS public faqs page.

All of this may seem too detailed or bothersome to some who travel, just like long security lines can be, but in the end it is our safety and that of others that is the real focus of this initiative. So all in all REAL ID seems to be a positive step toward keeping travel safe, secure and as always an adventure into the world.