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REAL ID is Real and Compliance is only 11 months Away

While the concept may be controversial, those who travel may still have to get onboard with it

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to remind travelers that the upcoming REAL ID requirement and enforcement will start October 1, 2020. At that time every air traveler must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or other acceptable forms of identification, such as a valid passport or U.S. military ID, to fly within the United States. Individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.

“This is an important step in enhancing commercial aviation security and we urge travelers to ensure they have compliant documents,” said Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan just before resigning. He stepped down last month after spending his six-month tenure at the department trying to curb illegal crossings at the southwestern border in the midst of a controversial White House policy intent on separating families and restricting immigration. “DHS is committed to working with states as they continue their efforts to issue REAL IDs to Americans.”

In January of 2017, only 26 states were REAL ID compliant. Through voluntary partnerships with state governments, associations, DMVs, and other stakeholders across all jurisdictions, DHS says thta 47 out of 50 states are currently REAL ID compliant. However, only 27% of Americans have been issued a REAL ID at the current time.

The policy has come under scrutiny by civil rights groups and even U.S. Travel Association’s (USTA) Brand USA, the official inbound department of tourism for the US. It is not something all members of the public can easily manage and reflects shades of national identity cards so important to militaristic societies.

The USTA launched a campaign last month to improve public awareness of the ramifications of this requirement after a study found an estimated 182 million Americans are unlikely to have a Real ID by the deadline.

“In fact, if Real ID standards were enforced today, 99 million Americans would not have an acceptable alternative ID, and almost 80,000 American travelers would be denied boarding on the first day. If that trend were to continue for a week, over half a million travelers would be turned away, which would cost as much as $300 million in lost travel,” said Tori Barnes, U.S. Travel EVP of Public Affairs and Policy, in a media call.

The USTA has promoted their position to the media and testified in Congress in efforts to mitigate negative effects of Real ID and other policies, such as not turning away travelers at security checkpoints and moving away from aggressive pat downs.

Meanwhile, the DHS has been working to increase public focus on the upcoming deadline. The department is displaying signs at airports notifying the public of changing requirement. In August, TSA began verbally advising travelers who present non-compliant licenses of the upcoming REAL ID requirement and enforcement date. TSA has also co-hosted REAL ID events with motor vehicle administration officials in numerous locations around the country throughout the spring and summer, with more to come.

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York states issue both REAL ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which are acceptable. Washington state issues enhanced driver’s licenses only. These documents will be accepted at the airport security checkpoint when the REAL ID enforcement goes into effect.

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act implements the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards for official purposes, such as at airport security checkpoints. The regulations established the deadline of October 1, 2020, to ensure full enforcement of the REAL ID Act.