Changing Identification Requirements for Domestic Flights

August 26, 2019

If your driver’s license does not have a star in the upper corner of the card, then your license is not Real ID compliant. And if you are planning to take a domestic commercial flight any time after Oct 1, 2020, you will need to take action, make some decisions or wait for your state to take action.

What is Real ID?

The Real ID Act is legislation passed in 2005 (in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks) that set new and higher minimum security standards for the driver’s licenses and identification cards that will be accepted at airports, other federally regulated facilities and nuclear power plants.

Debates and push-backs from some states over the impact of Real ID have created confusion and delayed the official roll-out of the act’s enforcement, but Oct. 1, 2020, is now considered the firm date for enforcement at commercial airports.

“The main push-back on REAL ID is that it’s too Big Brother,” said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert with Leading Edge Strategies. “It’s a move to make everyone in the U.S. have identification, which tends to upset those who enjoy life off the grid or don’t like any more government intrusion into their lives than what is necessary.”

But, Price notes, nearly every state has come into compliance. “And there hasn’t been the Big Brother/illegal shakedown issues that some people predicted,” he said.

How do you get a Real ID-compliant license?

The Department of Homeland Security has been phasing in enforcement of the Real ID Act in an effort to give states time to become compliant with the rules and to begin issuing enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards in time for the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline.

Most states are currently in compliance with the Real ID Act and are able to issue upgraded licenses and IDs. The DHS website has a map you can check to find out the status of your state.

Some states have been granted extensions with varying deadlines for meeting the rules.

What this means?

If your current driver’s license or ID card is from a compliant state, the Transportation Security Administration will accept it at airports until Sept. 30, 2020. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, though, licenses and IDs from these states will need to bear a star or special symbol that shows it has been upgraded to conform to the new minimum security standards.

If your current license is from one of the states that has been given an extension, or from California, then it is good until the date the extension expires. After that, if the state is not given another extension, is it possible the TSA will require an additional or alternate form of ID (i.e., a passport) between the extension expiration date and Sept. 30, 2020.

Come Oct. 1, 2020, though, licenses from these extension states will also need to have the star or symbol that shows it has been upgraded to meet the new minimum security standards.

Getting ready for Oct. 1, 2020

Signs about the Real ID deadline are now in airports across the country.

There is sure to be continued confusion and delays in getting upgraded licenses and ID cards from state agencies.

For that reason, the TSA, the DHS, airports and travel agents are urging travelers to renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs early and to be sure to opt for the “enhanced” or “compliant” versions which, we should warn you, require additional paperwork and may cost more than the “for driving only” or “un-enhanced” versions in some states.

Or, you can decide if you are comfortable flying domestically with your passport or with one of the other forms of approved identification on the TSA’s list.

Baskas, Harriet. (2019). “Airports and the TSA are gearing up for the Real ID deadline. You should be, too”. Retrieved from