Drivers’ licenses are acceptable identification for many purposes across the United States. However, some uncertain time in 2016, drivers’ licenses from New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and American Samoa will no longer be acceptable ID for commercial airline travel.
In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act (Pub.L. 109–13, 119 Stat. 302), imposing certain standards on drivers’ licenses for their use as forms of identification. The Act was to be imposed in phases. Phase 1 restricts areas at the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security; Phase 2 restricted areas for all federal facilities and nuclear power plants; Phase 3 semi-restricted areas for all other federal facilities; and Phase 4, which will take effect sometime after January 1, 2016, affects boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.
Before and after passage of the REAL ID Act, every state had and has its own regulations for issuing drivers’ licenses, including the documents required to apply, the information provided in and on the cards, the cards’ appearance, and the data stored by the state. The REAL ID Act nationalized and regulated the standards for drivers’ licenses as acceptable ID.
Most states’ drivers’ licenses comply with the special federal requirements of the Real ID Act; however, New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and American Samoa are not in compliance. Those states and American Samoa supposedly failed to have enough security features in their drivers’ licenses or did not require enough verification of ID and immigration status to obtain their licenses. Consequently, effective some date in 2016, people with drivers’ licenses from those states and American Samoa will be forced to use alternative ID, such as passports, to board a commercial plane in the U. S.
Meanwhile, more than 24 states have called for the Act’s repeal, alleging in part:
– The card-reading technology would convert driver licenses and identification cards into tracking devices;
– The maintenance and sharing of state databases “will expose every state to the information security weaknesses of every other state and threaten the privacy of every American”; and
– The Act coerces states’ compliance by “threatening to refuse noncomplying states’ citizens the privileges and immunities enjoyed by other states’ citizens.”
At this juncture, states must still comply with the REAL ID Act and 2016 is fast approaching. Unless informed otherwise, states will be required to comply with the requirements of the Act in 2016 and noncomplying states’ drivers’ licenses will be inadequate ID for domestic commercial air travel.
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.