Imagine spending hours upon hours planning a trip and also spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on airline tickets. Finally, your departure day comes, and you’re incredibly excited. You get all packed up, drive to the airport, approach the security check-in, hand them your driver’s license. Then you hear them say you aren’t allowed to check in or board your plane. All that preparation and now everything is ruined. How could that happen? Unfortunately, this could happen to you beginning October 1, 2021, if you don’t have proper identification at airport security. All because you weren’t aware of the new US domestic travel restrictions.
New US Domestic Travel Restrictions Take Effect in October 2021
New US domestic travel restrictions state that, beginning October 1, 2021, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.
Who Needs a REAL ID?
Any traveler 18 years and older flying domestically needs a REAL ID. Anyone who does not present a REAL ID-compliant license or acceptable alternative beginning October 1, 2021, will not be permitted through the security checkpoint. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. Of course, the companion will need acceptable identification.
Acceptable Travel ID Cards
An acceptable ID card for U.S. air travel is a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID, such as a U.S. passport, passport card or DHS trusted traveler card. The Department of Homeland Security announced on September 10, 2020, that all 50 states are now in full compliance issuing these cards.
Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington are the only states that currently issue EDL’s. For more information on EDL’s, go to https://www.dhs.gov/enhanced-drivers-licenses-what-are-they.
For information by state, including where to obtain a REAL ID, visit the DHS REAL ID website and click your state on the map.
For more information on acceptable forms of identification for boarding aircraft, please visit the TSA’s website at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.
Distinguishing Between a REAL ID, EDL and Non-compliant Driver’s License
A REAL ID-compliant card is a driver’s license with a special indicator on it. REAL ID driver’s licenses generally have a star marking in the upper left- or right-hand corner. Many of them display a white star against a gold background.
State-issued Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL’s) are typically marked with a U.S. flag and the word “Enhanced” on them. The EDL’s are also designated as acceptable border-crossing documents by DHS under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and are acceptable alternatives for official federal purposes such as accessing a Federal facility or boarding a commercial aircraft. Individual agency policies may still apply.
How to Get a REAL ID
Visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing: 1) Full Legal Name; 2) Date of Birth; 3) Social Security Number; 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and 5) Lawful Status. States may impose additional requirements, so check with your state’s driver’s licensing agency website, before visiting them in person, for additional guidance and assistance.
How to Verify Your Social Security Number
The best way to verify your social security number (SSN) is to present your social security card. However, if your card is not available, you may present any one of the following documents bearing your SSN:
- A W-2 form
- A SSA-1099 form
- A non-SSA-1099 form
- A pay stub with the applicant’s name and SSN on it
DHS is aware that states may be more restrictive in terms of what they will accept and recommends that individuals check with their state Driver’s Licensing Agency for more information.
Impact on Use of Passports
REAL ID cards cannot be used for border crossings into Canada, Mexico or other international travel. They also cannot be used for international sea cruise travel. If you are traveling internationally you will still need your passport. If you are traveling domestically, you will only need one valid form of identification – either your REAL ID or another acceptable alternative such as a passport, not both.
Reason for the ID Change
Passed by Congress in 2005 following a 9/11 Commission recommendation, the REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like the TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards for official purposes from states that do not meet these standards after specific deadlines. Learn more about REAL ID enforcement.
Security standards include incorporating anti-counterfeiting technology, preventing insider fraud, and using documentary evidence and record checks to ensure a person is who he or she claims to be. It also prohibits federal agencies from accepting non-compliant licenses and identification cards for access to federal facilities, nuclear power plants, and commercial aircraft. These standards have significantly improved the reliability and accuracy of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.
US Domestic Travel Restrictions FAQ’s
If you still have unanswered questions about REAL ID’s after reading this article, you may find your answers at www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs.