By: Stephanie Seibert

Businesswoman with smart phone pulling suitcase in airport

Are you planning on travelling by plane on or after October 1, 2020? Do you have your state issued Real ID yet? If not, dig out your identification documents and proof of residence and plan a trip over to your local DMV to get your new and improved, Real ID certified, identification card. United States residents have until October 1, 2020 to become compliant with the Real ID Act of 2005 in order to fly, even domestically.

In the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, President Bush signed the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Tsunami Relief.”[1] Included in this act was the “Real ID Act of 2005” (hereinafter “The Act”).[2] The Act aims to create national standards for all states and territories regarding the issuance and production of driver’s licenses.[3] The Act also prohibits federal agencies (such as the Transportation Security Administration “TSA”) from accepting non-compliant identification cards.[4] Essentially, The Act created a new form of ID card known as “Enhanced Driver’s License” (“EDL”). An EDL card will be used as a state driver’s license but will also act as proof of identity and U.S. Citizenship.[5] The EDL card is notated as such by a star icon in the upper right corner of the card.[6] The Act changed documentation requirements that individuals must provide when getting a Real ID identification card.[7] The Act created a narrow list of documents that people can provide to prove their identity and requires documentation that proves residency.[8]

Starting October 1, 2020 Homeland Security is requiring that anyone boarding a plane must have an EDL card or show a valid passport in order to travel. Airports are warning of the major consequence that this deadline will have and are requesting an extension to the deadline.  As of February 2020, only 34% residents in the country have EDL licenses. Leaving seven months for about two-thirds of the country to get the updated license if they plan to use their license to board a plane [emphasis added].[9] Beyond that, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that 57% of Americans do not even know about this deadline.[10] The Airports Council International – North America is warning that thousands of passengers will be left stranded and denied boarding if this deadline is enforced.[11] They warn that this deadline will create absolute chaos, and could create a $300 million in economic loss in the first week that Real IDs become mandatory in airports.[12]

Additionally, not every state is even compliant with the standards that Homeland Security imposed on them. Oregon and Oklahoma are not yet certified to distribute EDL cards to their residents.[13] Oregon is estimating that it will not begin distributing EDL cards until June of 2020.[14] New Jersey’s certification is still under review.[15] Further, states that are compliant with The Act they are still having issuance problems. State motor vehicle offices are unequipped to handle the capacities that are flooding their offices for the opportunity to upgrade their IDs before the deadline[16]. For example, Washington State, whom is compliant with The Act, is urging its residents to just go get a passport because it will be faster than going through the process of getting an EDL.[17]

The president of The Airports Council International – North America is calling for action from the government to make a definitive statement on the impending deadline.[18] Additionally several members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security requesting a contingency plan so that if the deadline is enforced, people are not denied access to their flights.[19] While Homeland Security solicited ideas, solutions, proposals from various sectors earlier this week, they have failed to respond to the notion of changing the deadline.[20] They did however make some changes to the processes that residents have to go through to obtain the IDs. States are now able to have online platforms where residents can submit their information prior to arriving at the DMV.[21] While this may reduce the amount of time that residents need to spend in the DMV, will it solve the access problems completely? It will be interesting to see if Homeland engages in further activity as we move closer to the proposed deadline.

[1] Hayley Hoff, Comment: Get Real: Implications and Impositions of the Real ID Act of 2005 on Vulnerable Individuals and States, 68 Cath. U.L. Rev. 379, 383 (2019).

[2] Id.

[3] Real ID, U.S. Department of Homeland Security,

[4] Id.

[5] Hoff, supra note 1.

[6] Millions of Americans may not have new Real IDs before deadline: “The potential is catastrophic”, CBS News (Feb. 21, 2020)

[7] Hoff, supra note 1.

[8] Id.

[9] Tom Costello, Airports warn of chaos with looming Real ID license deadline, NBC News (Feb. 19, 2020)

[10] Id.

[11] Id.


[13] Real ID, supra note 2.

[14] Costello, supra note 9.

[15] Real ID, supra note 2.

[16] Tom Costello, Airports warn of chaos with looming Real ID license deadline, NBC News (Feb. 19, 2020)

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Millions of Americans may not have new Real IDs before deadline: “The potential is catastrophic”, supra note 6.

[20] DHS Announces Streamlining Measures To Help States In Issuing REAL IDs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, (Feb. 19, 2020)

[21] Id.

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