DHS to start Real ID Act enforcement at airports

DHS to start Real ID Act enforcement at airports

Millions of Americans spent the holidays flying domestically to visit friends, family and loved ones using only their driver’s licenses as identification to pass through airport security. That may soon change, however, as the Department of Homeland Security begins implementing Real ID enforcement at airports in 2016. Airline travelers from states whose driver’s licenses do not comply with the requirements of the Real ID Act may need new forms of identification at their local airports.  

DHS has repeatedly extended the deadline for enforcing the new requirements, but announced in 2013 that "Phase 4" enforcement -- requiring Real ID-compliant licenses at airports -- would begin in 2016. Besides including the  person’s name, date of birth, digital photo, gender, principal address, signature and physical attributes (height, weight, hair and eye color), states issuing a Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses must also document the applicant’s citizenship status and Social Security number.  Additionally, the Real ID card must contain a chip or magnetic strip containing the above information in a machine-readable format.

There are however, significant issues for states around Real IDs. Funding for the program is one hurdle. The government estimates the program will cost $3.9 billion, according to a New York Times report, but some critics said that figure vastly underestimated the costs.  Another issue is immigration.  Some states don’t require the immigration status of applicants when applying for a driver’s license, something that is required by the Real ID Act. Privacy advocates believe that sharing the identifying information across states will increase the vulnerability of the data, exposing it to illegal access.  And some states went so far as to pass resolutions against complying with Real ID Act provisions.  

Many states have received extensions to give them more time as well as funding to bring their systems into compliance. Currently, Minnesota is the only state that did not received an extension in 2015, along with American Samoa. Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington have not received extensions for 2016 and will be subject to enforcement for accessing international travel, most federal facilities, nuclear power plants and military bases beginning Jan. 10, 2016. The enforcement schedule is available here.

Until enforcement at airports begins, the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from all states as well other forms of acceptable identification listed on the TSA website, DHS said.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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