Beginning May 3, the only driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs that will be accepted for boarding commercial flights will be those that meet federal requirements for actual identification. That date – unless further extended – would mark the end of a 14-year delay, but could confuse non-compliant air travellers, who would be denied boarding domestic planes.
The law, which aims to prevent identity theft, sets minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification documents. Applicants are required to provide proof of identity and legal residence in the United States to obtain the new ID. Enforcement in federal buildings and military bases began in 2014.
DMVs across the country allow residents to renew licenses and credentials as early as one year before they expire. Others are launching campaigns alerting residents to the May deadline — sending email and paper messages to those whose licenses or IDs don’t comply — while partnering with airports and Transportation Security Administration to increase signaling.
Some travel groups are concerned that Real ID’s compliance rate is too low and that on May 3, hundreds of thousands of Americans who use their state-issued IDs could be turned away from airport checkpoints. airports. The TSA accepts other forms of identification, such as a US passport or military ID, but none are as common as a standard driver’s license.
As of May this year, 137 million actual ID cards had been issued nationwide, representing 49% of state-issued ID cards in circulation, according to federal data obtained through the ‘American Travel Association. At the time, the compliance rate increased by about 0.5 percentage points each month, the data showed.
“We really want Real ID to succeed, but 50% adoption is really not a success. It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the travel association’s executive vice president for politics. “They’re really going to have to look into another delay if they don’t improve the numbers over the next few months. We simply cannot have 50% of the population showing up at the airport and being turned away.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the implementation of Real ID, did not respond to multiple requests for comment and compliance rate data. The TSA referred the questions to DHS.
While national compliance hovers around halfway, Maryland and the district have made more progress in recent years. In Maryland, 89% of licensed drivers and ID card holders are Real ID compliant. In the nation’s capital, 93% of residents with a driver’s license or ID have a real ID card.
Other states, like Virginia, give licensees the choice of a standard or real ID, which the travel industry and some federal officials say is confusing. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, about 2.7 million Virginians have real ID, which accounts for about 43% of state-issued credentials.
Congress passed the Real ID Act after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Eighteen of the 19 hijackers had obtained state ID cards, some fraudulently.
The law was originally supposed to come into force in 2008, but the program has been delayed several times. Some states criticized the law when it passed, calling it an unfunded mandate, but their appeals to DHS and Congress for changes were unsuccessful.
All 50 states, the district and five permanently inhabited U.S. territories have pledged to comply with Real ID requirements, federal officials said. DHS has expanded implementation several times, most recently extend the deadline from October 1, 2021 to May 3 next year to give states more time amid pandemic-related delays at motor vehicle branches.
Certain requirements made visits to the DMV more complicated or time-consuming. Many people struggled to obtain required documents, such as original birth certificates and social security cards.
Federal regulations also require visiting a motor vehicle branch in person to complete the application process, although some states allow applicants to start online before their visit.
Barnes said DHS shared data with the travel industry this spring that shows 102 million state-issued credentials in the United States were non-compliant and about 39 million were up to four years before expiration.
Some states that have delayed issuing Real IDs have seen their progress hampered by the pandemic. California, Mississippi and Virginia started issuing them in 2018. Maine started in 2019. In contrast, the district started in 2014 and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration launched Real ID licenses and ID cards in 2016.
In the district, about 46,000 residents have yet to convert their ID to a real ID, according to DMV records. The city launched an education campaign this fall that includes monthly mailings and email notifications to residents who have not updated their ID.
Maryland MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said the state is addressing about half a million residents who are not in compliance.
“For people who are not yet compliant, we want to continue to contact them and make sure they are aware, especially if they plan to travel,” she said. “We have a great availability of appointments. There really is no difficulty in taking care of it.
Nizer said the extra time granted last year helped ensure a higher rate of compliance in the face of pandemic-related challenges. The MVA operates on an appointment system, which it says ensures that most customer wait times are around 15 minutes. Residents of Maryland can also renew up to one year in advance at no additional cost.
In Virginia, the DMV has issued real IDs on a voluntary basis since fall 2018 while allowing residents to continue to obtain a standard credential with a “Federal Limits Apply” note in the right corner, instead of the star. RealID.
DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin said the state exceeded its initial Real ID enrollment projection of 2.6 million. Over the past year, the Virginia DMV has issued more than 500,000 real IDs, she said.
Cowardin said Virginians who want to get a real ID card before the May deadline should visit dmvnow.com before visiting a local branch and prepare with the required documents.
“We expect our offices to be busy in April and May with last minute Real ID customers,” Cowardin said.
Some local agencies said they were planning campaigns to target air travelers during the busy holiday season, including setting up information tables at airports. Airlines also include information on the deadline for travelers to purchase tickets.
Travelers will see signs at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall, Reagan National and Dulles International airports indicating the impending deadline.
“A lot more work needs to be done to make sure more people are compliant,” Barnes said. “If the adoption isn’t there, we may have to consider a delay again.”