Can Travelers still use their Driver’s License for Identification at Airports?

There have been questions about whether travelers can still present their driver’s license or state-issued ID at airports.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is still accepting these forms of identification from all states, however, be prepared for changes in 2016.

Free stock photo of people, sign, traveling, blur

In 2005, Congress enacted the REAL ID law that set standards for the issuance of identification (such as driver’s licenses and state IDs) and required these updated forms of identification be used in all Federal regulated facilities. Airports require identification when boarding a commercial aircraft. The REAL ID law requires all states to add security measures to their state-issued identification and driver’s licenses.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that they will be making a decision as to when TSA can no longer accept driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs from states that have not updated their identification methods. In the meantime, TSA will continue accepting driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs from all states.

U.S. passports and passport cards will continue to be acceptable methods of identification.

The majority of states have not complied with the REAL ID requirements. Non-compliant states that did not receive an extension for 2016 are Illinois, New Mexico, Missouri, Washington, and Minnesota. Federal officials may continue to accept Enhanced Driver’s Licenses from Minnesota. These five states may be the first to be affected when TSA decides to enforce the law sometime after January 10th, 2016.

DHS plans to provide advance notice (at least 120 days) to travelers before changing the identification requirements for boarding planes. This notice will include information on what travelers in non-compliant states can do to get acceptable identification.

There are several non-compliant states that have received an extension from DHS until October 10th, 2016. Those states are Alaska, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. New Hampshire has received an extension until June 1st, 2016.

What is a REAL ID?

Identification that includes machine-readable technology (such as a chip) that contains personal information. This information will be stored in a database that any state or the federal government can access. The REAL ID system was implemented to help curtail terrorism.

Acceptable Identification Requirements (currently in force):

According to the TSA:

“Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel. These include the following:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents,
    and DoD civilians
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card (for Federal employees and contractors)
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs
    Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential”

ID Requirements for Children:

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. However, contact your airline regarding their identification requirements for travelers under 18.

Forgot Your ID?

In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification, you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete a form to include your name and current address and may ask additional questions to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint. You may be subject to additional screening.

You will not be allowed to fly if your identity cannot be confirmed, if you cannot provide proper identification, or if you decline to cooperate with the identity verification process.

TSA states, “You should arrive at least two hours in advance of your flight to allow ample time for security screening and boarding the aircraft.”

For more insightful travel ideas, check out my book:

Know Before You Go:  Traveling the U.S. and Abroad




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