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Let's get real about The REAL ID Act


One of the simplest ways to ensure a great vacation is having all the proper documentation. Everybody knows you need a passport to travel internationally, but several countries also require U.S. citizens to have visas to enter. For residents of certain states, it’s domestic travel that might get a lot more complicated in the coming year, thanks to varying degrees of compliance with the REAL ID Act. The last thing you want to do is show up at the airport and be surprised to learn you don’t have what you need. You can always buy a toothbrush if you forgot yours, but if you don’t have the proper identification, you’re in real trouble.

Passed in 2005, the REAL ID Act set minimum standards for state-issued identifications in order for them to be accepted by federal agencies, including the TSA. As of now, 27 states are in compliance with the federal requirements. Six states (Illinois, New York, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and Rhode Island) that are not compliant have grace periods that expire Jan. 22. Unless the Department of Homeland Security grants an extension, residents of those states will not be able to board domestic flights using their driver’s licenses as identification.

So if you live in one of those states, you’ll need to bring one of the following with you to the airport for your domestic flight: a valid passport, a passport card, a trusted traveler card (for those with Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST clearance), a U.S. military ID, a Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card. This Jan. 22 deadline also applies to residents of the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

On Oct. 10, 2018, the DHS extension for another 17 states expires. So if you live in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky or South Carolina, you might need more than a state-issued ID to fly domestically beginning next fall.

If your state is not compliant and you don’t already have one of the acceptable alternate IDs, be proactive. If you are planning to fly within the U.S. or territories, make an appointment as soon as possible to get a passport, passport card or whatever else is guaranteed to get you on that plane. The last thing you want is to invest time, money and preparation into a trip only to be turned away at the security checkpoint for not having the proper ID.