AMERICANS DON’T NEED PASSPORTS TO FLY domestically — we’re allowed to use our driver’s licenses to board airplanes. But for 9 states, that may be about to change. In 2005, at the recommendation of the 9/11 commission, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which was designed to push higher security standards for personal ID’s. Over the last 10 years, a handful of states have not complied with the new federal standards, but this hasn’t mattered, as driver’s licenses are a state and not a federal matter.
But now, on the heels of the recent terrorist attacks, the Department of Homeland Security is toying with playing a new trump card to get states to comply: while they can’t legally force states to change their IDs, they can stop accepting those IDs at places that are administered at the Federal level, like military bases or commercial airports.
The latter option is now under consideration, and nine states that are not compliant with Federal ID standards are at risk of no longer being accepted in airports. Five of the states aren’t compliant, and haven’t been granted an exemption from the Federal standards, which means their IDs may no longer be accepted at airports as soon as January 16th of 2016:
- New Mexico
Four more states aren’t compliant, but may be exempt, pending federal review:
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
19 other states aren’t totally compliant, but have been granted a longer exemption, either until June or October of this year.
So what does this mean for travelers? It still depends on what the feds decide to do. States are fighting back against the higher standards for a few reasons: they don’t want to lose power, and many of them believe that this will make it easier for the federal government to track citizens. The Feds argue that the measures will help prevent terrorism, fraud, and identity theft.
But it very well could mean that citizens of those nine states will have to start bringing a passport or some other form of federally accepted ID to the airport with them if they want to be allowed on the plane. Unless, of course, the Feds or the States budge in the next few weeks.