Home Editor's Picks Needing a Passport for Domestic Travel is now a Real Possibility

Needing a Passport for Domestic Travel is now a Real Possibility


By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security

For years, travelers at all U.S. airports have produced their state-issued ID – nearly always a driver’s license – at a ticket desk and to clear airport security checkpoints. However, thanks to the Real ID Act, needing a passport for domestic travel is an ominous possibility. The reason? Passports meet the Real ID Act requirements; most state-issued IDs do not.

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Many states have received extensions affording them some more time to quickly become compliant, but Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and Illinois are all without extensions from the federal government. Residents in non-compliant states will soon not be able to use their state-issued IDs to enter federal buildings, military bases, and most importantly to a majority of people – they won’t be able to board an airplane to fly domestically. The Real ID Act enforcement schedule is available here, and each state’s Real ID compliance status is shown in the info-graphic below (Credit: NY Times/DHS).

Real ID ActThe Real ID Act was introduced soon after 9/11 and was passed in 2005. Current state-issued IDs are required to show a person’s name, date of birth, gender, a photo, permanent address, signature, along with his or her height, weight, eye and hair color. However, new Real ID-compliant state-issued IDs must also include the holder’s citizenship and Social Security number – as well as a microchip that makes all of the person’s identification attributes available to a machine-readable device. And, none of that comes cheap.

According to a New York Times report, the federal government has put a $3.9 billion price tag on national compliance with the Real ID act, but some critics have gone on record to say that figure is not even close to the real cost. Besides the enormous funding problem, an immigration issue looms heavily over compliance because some states don’t require a person’s immigration status on a driver’s license application, but it is required by the Real ID Act.

Until official enforcement at airports starts some time this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will accept current state-issued IDs to clear airport security, according to officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. However, the clock is ticking; keep that passport application handy.