The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it will give states until Jan. 22, 2018 to issue driver’s licenses that comply with the REAL ID Act before it requires residents of noncompliant states to show other forms of identification for domestic air travel.

The question of whether DHS would require other forms of ID at airports arose as the federal government moved toward the REAL ID Act’s final phase of enforcement earlier this month. Five states – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington – remain noncompliant and without an extension from the agency.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson said in a Jan. 8 statement that while the federal government is moving toward full enforcement of the law, all state-issued driver’s licenses will continue to be accepted at airports for two years.

“Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel,” Johnson said. “Until January 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel.”

DHS will also continue accepting certain other forms of ID – including passports, passport cards, Global Entry cards, U.S. military IDs, and airline or airport-issued IDs – for domestic air travel.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2005. The law requires states to issue driver’s licenses that contain a machine-readable data chip or magnetic strip. To date, 22 states and the District of Columbia have come into compliance with the Act. Twenty-three have received extensions. A state-by-state breakdown on REAL ID compliance is available on this DHS website.

BAL Analysis: While DHS is moving toward fully enforcing the REAL ID Act, the announcement that it will continue to accept any state-issued driver’s licenses at airports is welcome news not only for residents of the five states subject to enforcement this month, but also for residents of the 23 states granted extensions that will expire later this year. BAL will continue following the implementation of REAL ID enforcement and will update clients if it becomes necessary for travelers to obtain alternative forms of ID before making travel plans. It does not appear this will be necessary, however, for at least two years.

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