If you’re planning to fly after Jan. 22, you may not be able to use your driver’s license as a form of identification to get through security. That’s because of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which I have written about previously.
What it is: The law, a counterterrorism measure that followed 9/11, calls for states to issue driver’s licenses with more security features, such as scannable bar codes and digital photos. They will be required for people to board any commercial flight and enter federal facilities and military bases.
Passports or other approved forms of federal identification, such as a border-crossing card, U.S. military ID, TSA Pre-Check, or Global Entry card, can be used as an alternative. You will need this alternative ID if you live in one of 24 states that have yet to add the security measures to the driver’s licenses they issue. And you may need to get a new, updated license if you live in one of the states that already offers them.
Enforcement begins on Jan. 22. You can check your state’s status on the website of Department of Homeland Security. In addition, some states have been granted extensions to make their licenses compliant.
The bottom line: You don’t want to find yourself barred from flying just because you didn’t realize your old driver’s license is no longer an acceptable form of identification. If your state doesn’t have the new IDs, there is still time to get a passport or apply for another ID, says Tom Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations at the online travel agency CheapOair.
Spagnola says airlines, not to mention airport security agents, don’t want to face a slew of angry and confused travelers when enforcement begins. Many in the travel industry are working overtime to inform the public, so he’s hopeful the message will get through: “We still have three more months to work on passenger awareness.”
Still…it’s worth checking on before you get ready for your next trip.