Homeland Security Issues New ID Requirements for New Yorkers—and Thousands of Others—Heading to the Airport

by Daniel McCarthy
Homeland Security Issues New ID Requirements for New Yorkers—and Thousands of Others—Heading to the Airport

If your customers are from New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, or American Samoa, head’s up. Travelers from those locations soon will be out of luck if they try to travel using a driver’s license as ID.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, driver’s licenses from the four states and Samoa do not comply with the minimum standards of the federal Real ID system.

The system was created by an act of Congress following recommendations from the 9/11 Commission that the Federal Government should “set standards of the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” DHS will begin enforcing its final phase, allowing only travelers from compliant states to use their driver’s licenses as ID for domestic air travel, in 2016. New York and Minnesota had obtained a federal extension for implementing the Real ID system, but it will expire on Jan. 19.

The Act requires that all state IDs issued after Dec. 1, 1964, comply with the REAL ID system, under which the issuing state’s DMV records must include social security numbers, photographs, and home addresses of drivers.

While New York does offer enhanced licenses, which the state believes makes it compliant with the law, it does not require that its residents get one. According to a story in today’s Newsday in New York, 11.5 million driver licenses are active in the state, and only 800,000—just 6.9%—are enhanced.

New Hampshire has a separate problem with the Act, as state law there does not require the DMV to store social security numbers. Meanwhile, New Hampshire law doesn’t require a photograph to be stored at the DMV or a home address be printed on the license, two things that the Real ID law requires.

In Louisiana, though the state’s House voted to adopt federal REAL ID regulations, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation in June, 2014, citing issues with state versus federal rights as the reason. The same problem came up when Minnesota tried to pass laws requiring REAL IDs last April.

Beside the extra cost of obtaining an enhanced license, there are also privacy concerns over the Real ID requirements. Douglas Kidd, the executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers, told Newsday that while his organization understands the need for extra security “whether the Real ID and the additional personal data associated with it actually provides any real security remains to be seen.” 

Debates notwithstanding—and especially with the wait for passports already getting longer—travel agents can help their customers by reminding them that citizens from these four states who were born after Dec. 1, 1964, will no longer be able to board a domestic flight or cruise without a passport. And the sooner they get on line, the better.

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