In June, we warned that the REAL ID Act could soon render your government-issued driver’s license useless as a form of ID at the airport. Under the act, state licenses are required to have all the regular information such as a photo ID, date of birth, signature, etc., as well being equipped with “machine-readable technology” in the form of a chip.
Since the REAL ID Act passed in 2005, many states have either complied with the new regulations or have asked for an extension to comply. Arizona, whose compliance was questionable the last time we wrote about the REAL ID Act, is now fully compliant. However, a handful of states and territories still have not issued new licenses that meet the federal regulations. If you’re a resident of Louisiana, Minnesota, American Samoa, New Hampshire, or New York, you might need to begin traveling with your passport in 2016.
These states have resisted regulating their licenses due to high administrative costs and a 50 percent increase in the license fee for drivers. However, New York and Minnesota have made an enhanced license available to drivers at a cost of up to $30 more than a basic license.
The failure of states to comply with the REAL ID Act could be disastrous for unsuspecting passengers. Not only will it be more difficult to fly, those without a regulated driver’s license will also have difficulty boarding cruise ships and entering some federal buildings. We can already imagine the horror stories of travelers arriving at the airport and being forced to miss an important flight because their home state failed to provide them with proper identification.
The REAL ID Act has been heavily criticized and even accused of being unconstitutional, but it remains an important issue to keep your eye on if you live in one of the affected states or territories.
It is unknown when the REAL ID Act will officially go into effect, and many states are still working on their extensions. Residents of Minnesota and New York may want to consider purchasing an enhanced driver’s license just to be safe. However, if you cannot afford the extra cost of an enhanced license or if your state is not currently offering any form of compliant identification, it would be a good idea to bring your passport with you when flying domestically.
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