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Your Driver’s License May Not Allow You to Fly

license (1280x904)To board a plane in the U.S., you need government-issued identification and, for many years, a driver’s license issued by a state was all you needed to fly domestically. However, next time you fly, your driver’s license may not be enough.

In an effort to beef up security, in 2005 Congress passed the REAL ID Act that requires an “enhanced” driver’s license to board a plane. The idea was that terrorists could use fake regular driver’s licenses and the new enhanced DLs would be harder to use. The new enhanced driver’s licenses have all the information of a regular driver’s license—photo, date of birth, signature, etc. However, they also have embedded chip technology called “machine-readable technology.” Of course, this added security comes with a price and that’s the problem many travelers and many states have with the new form of ID.

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Flying domestically will soon require enhanced ID or a passport.

A number of states applied and received extensions for complying with the law. A few have simply resisted complying at all. The problem for travelers is that deadlines are here for enforcement of the REAL ID Act and, if you live in a state that doesn’t meet the Act’s standards or doesn’t have an active extension for complying, the next time you try to use your driver’s license to get on a plane it may not be enough.

Time is Running Out
According to the REAL ID Enforcement website: “approximately 70-80% of all U.S. drivers hold licenses from jurisdictions: (1) determined to meet the Act’s standards; or (2) that have received extensions. Individuals holding driver’s licenses or identification cards from these jurisdiction may continue to use them as before.”

A sidebar on the website lists the states that meet the guidelines of the law or have an extension. A number of the state’s, like Washington State, are listed as have their extensions being reviewed and, if accepted, regular DLs could be accepted until January 10, 2016.. However, Washington was just denied their appeal for more time.

Minnesota and American Samoa are listed as being non-compliant and, if you’re from these areas, you will need to present a form of acceptable ID other than a DL or state-issued ID card (like a passport, a passport card, DHS trusted traveler cards like Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST, a permanent resident card, a border crossing card, a foreign-issued pass port, a Canadian DL or Indian/Northern Affairs Canada card, or Transportation worker ID credential).


Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for a passport.

Deadlines are looming, friends, for complying with the REAL ID Act. In the very near future, if you want to fly in the U.S., you’re going to need an enhanced driver’s license or ID card or a passport.

And, if you don’t already have a U.S. passport (or acceptable passport from another country), don’t wait until the last minute. It takes time, sometimes weeks, to get a passport. Plan ahead and don’t let your travel plans be derailed by the wrong ID. — Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

For more information, check out: You can also check the TSA website

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Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at