Here’s why travelers from 22 states could face conflict with domestic flights in 2018

Oct. 19, 1:30 p.m. ET -- UPDATE: 

Residents in 22 states were panicking earlier this week over the possibility that their state-issued ID cards would be insufficient to access domestic flights next year. Many thought they would need passports to travel between states.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has now approved requests for an extension, granting 17 states more time to provide appropriate, REAL ID-compliant identification for residents.

>> Read more trending news 

Twenty-seven states currently provide residents with standard, compliant IDs. Seventeen states were granted an extension until Oct. 10, 2018.

>> Which states do not provide REAL ID-compliant IDs? Read more: 17 states granted extension for REAL ID compliance; Driver's license OK for domestic travel 


The deadline is approaching for nearly two dozen states that have yet to update state IDs in compliance with the REAL ID Act, which was passed in 2005.

As a result, residents in those states may have to present a valid U.S. passport or other identification -- instead of previously used driver’s licenses or IDs -- to travel within the U.S. and beyond. 

Travelers who live in the following states could be affected: 

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina 
  • Washington

Residents of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands could also be affected, as could those from Virginia.

The REAL ID Act, which “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, ... established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the act’s minimum standards,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. The act came after 9/11 as an effort to ensure safer travel within the U.S. 

According to consumer expert Clark Howard, despite the fact that Congress passed the act more than 10 years ago, enforcement of the new regulations wasn’t pushed until 2013.

Twenty-six states have provided residents with federally compliant driver’s licenses or IDs. 

For those that have not, beginning Jan. 22, other forms of identification that will be accepted by Transportation Security Administration at airports for travelers living in the above listed states will be a permanent resident card/green card or a military ID. Other forms of acceptable identification are listed on the official TSA website.

Those who visit airports starting Jan. 22 without acceptable identification will not be allowed through airport security.

Some states have started working to provide residents with other forms of federally approved identification that would allow travelers to avoid ordering a passport for domestic travel, Forbes reported. For example, those in Washington have the option to apply for enhanced driver’s licenses, which adhere to the REAL ID Act specifications but cost significantly more than regular IDs.

Travelers are encouraged to check with local government officials for any potential options. 

Some of the states under review are scrambling to update state IDs to meet compliance standards in the next three months, and others have requested REAL ID compliance extensions from the Department of Homeland Security. Virginia residents have been granted an extension for REAL ID enforcement until Oct. 10, 2018. Budget shortages have delayed some states, including Oklahoma, from making the ID updates. 

Despite all extensions, there is a hard deadline for states to require compliant REAL IDs: Oct. 1, 2020.

“There are no anticipated changes to the enforcement schedule, and we are tracking that by 2020, 15 years after this act has been passed, that DHS will require that all states are compliant with Real ID as per federal law,” DHS spokeswoman Justine Whelan said, according to The Washington Post

“It is a critically important 9/11 Commission recommendation that others have been willing to ignore, but I will not,” John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s former homeland security secretary and current chief of staff, said in June. “I will ensure it is implemented on schedule -- with no extension -- for states that are not taking it seriously.”

Those who live in one of the states that do not have TSA-compliant IDs may want to consider ordering a passport sooner rather than later. It generally takes four to six weeks to process passport orders, according to the Department of State.

Read more here and here.

A previous version of this story reported travelers in nine states would potentially need passports or other forms of identification for domestic flights in 2018.

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