The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week said it will delay enforcement of the controversial REAL ID Act, which would have required travelers in some states to use a passport rather than a driver’s license to board a commercial airline.
Originally scheduled to take effect “sometime in 2016,” the act now will not be enforced until Jan. 22, 2018.
The REAL ID Act says that in order for their driver’s licenses to qualify as valid identification at the airport, states must meet a series of security requirements.
While the order was to take effect in 2016, only 22 states are fully compliant with the regulations, and 23 others were granted extensions. Five states still have neither.
The Real ID system was created by an act of Congress, in keeping with recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, that “set standards of the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”
The states that do not meet the REAL ID Act’s standards for “secure issuance and production,” do not, for example, incorporate anti-counterfeit technology, verify an applicant’s identity, or conduct background checks for employees involved in issuing licenses, and so their driver's licenses do not really prove the holder's identity in an age of terrorism.
In a statement, DHS secretary Jeh C. Johnson encouraged all non-compliant states to upgrade their systems to meet the requirements and noted that the objective is to meet a higher safety standard.
“The overall goal of the REAL ID Act passed by Congress is to prevent the fraudulent issuance and use of driver’s licenses and identification cards, thereby ensuring the safety and security of the American public,” he said. “Given today’s threat environment, this requirement is as relevant now as it was when the 9/11 Commission recommended it.”
DHS set a timeline for the final implementation of the REAL ID act:
- Now: DHS will reach out the traveling public to educate them about the timeline and continue to encourage states to comply with the Act.
- July 15, 2016: TSA will begin issuing online advisories to the public about the Act.
- Dec. 15, 2016: TSA’s outreach will be expanded at airport checkpoints.
- Jan 22, 2018: The REAL ID Act will start to be enforced at airports and cruise terminals.
- Oct. 1, 2020: Every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.
ASTA officially came out in support of the delay.
"The DHS action comes after several alarmist news reports this week gave the impression that driver's licenses in several states would soon be rejected as an appropriate form of identification for domestic air travel as a result of new federal ID standards,” said ASTA senior VP Eben Peck in a statement. “As you can imagine, this caused confusion among travelers, many of whom called their travel agents for guidance.”