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Everything Travelers Need to Know About the REAL ID Act

Are your days of flying domestically using only your driver’s license numbered? They could be, if you live in one of several states. As the deadline for the REAL ID Act looms, it’s vital for you to know whether your driver’s license meets the new criteria, or if you should plan to start traveling with your passport or another form of ID. Here’s our quick-and-easy primer with everything you need to know about the REAL ID Act and its new deadlines.

Passed in 2005, the REAL ID Act is a set of federal security standards for state driver’s licenses that require specific information and machine-readable technology in form of a chip. States have had a decade to make the change, but some are struggling to make the switch. Why? Some are having trouble finding the budget to enact the changes, and still other states and American territories such as Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and American Samoa, are totally against complying. For travelers in these districts, this would mean needing a passport or alternate form of identification for all domestic air travel.

RELATED: The REAL ID Act: Is Your License About to Become Useless for Air Travel?

2016 was the original deadline to implement the new regulations, but with many non-compliant states and even more states requesting extension periods, the deadline has been pushed back and expanded into stages. Here’s what you need to know:

July 15th, 2016: In coordination with airlines and airports, the TSA will begin to issue notifications with the details of the REAL ID Act Deadline to the traveling public. This basically ensures that as many people as possible are aware of the changes and will be prepared with the correct form of identification when the time comes.

January 22nd, 2018: This is the official date that the REAL ID Act will be enforced. If at this point, you hold a license from a state that still has not complied with the REAL ID Act, you will need to bring an alternate form of identification. However, if your state is compliant but has not been able to issue new licenses in time to meet this deadline, your regular license will still be accepted.

October 1st, 2020: According to the DHS website, by this date “every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.” If by this date your state has still not issued you a REAL ID compatible license, you will need to bring another form of ID, even if your state is still in its extension period.

Although 2018 may seem far away, it will be extremely important to stay updated with your state’s status regarding the situation. No one wants to be turned around at the check-in counter for bringing the wrong identification. And if the idea of carrying your passport every time you want to travel in-country seems excessive to you and your state is on the list of non-compliant states, you can always write to your representative and let them know you’d like to avoid this headache of a situation.

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Jamie Ditaranto always avoids traveling with her passport when she doesn’t have to and hopes her home state of New Jersey will get it together by 2018. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

(Photo: Airport Check-In Counters With Passengers via Shutterstock)

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