Sounds like a mistake, or like surely it doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens, right? Except it isn’t, and it does.
All U.S. states and territories have had since 2005 to comply with the Real ID Act — passed by Congress on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission — designed to make it very difficult to create a fake ID. For a variety of reasons, including privacy concerns, cost, and flat-out inconvenience, many have not complied.
If you live in one of these delinquent states or territories , starting on January 22, 2018 your non-compliant driver’s license or state ID card will no longer gain you access to federally regulated commercial aircraft nor, by the way, federal facilities or nuclear power plants. At that point, to fly in the U.S. you will need a passport, passport card, U.S. Dept. of Defense ID, or other TSA-approved ID. This date is the end of the grace period for all non-compliant states that were granted an extension on the October 20, 2017 deadline. Currently, all states and territories are either compliant, under the extension, or under extension review.
If you live in a compliant state, you’re set to go and don’t have to give this issue another thought. As of this publishing, the following states are compliant: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
If you live in any other state or territory, your best option for keeping up with compliance status is to check here regularly, as updates can and do come at any time.
In the meantime, if you have plans to fly around the country soon and don’t have one of those other TSA-approved IDs, get your passport application in ASAP. It normally takes 4-6 weeks to get your passport, but with the confluence of applications from Real ID non-compliant states, and all the expected renewals of 2007-issued passports (when we suddenly all had to get passports to travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean), you can expect it to take at least 6 weeks, if not more, to get your passport issued in 2018.
And what is the hard deadline for states to meet the requirements of the Real ID Act? October 1, 2020. If your state is lagging and you’re not pleased about it, contact your governor’s office to press for compliance.
All things considered, the wise traveler will secure an alternate approved ID to altogether bypass dependence on your state’s or territory’s action.