When Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, the prospect of a vast swath of U.S. travelers not being able to board planes by February 2018 because their driver’s license was determined not a compliant form of identification seemed highly unlikely.
But as the Act’s Jan. 22, 2018, deadline neared, more and more travel agents and travelers began to worry that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would implement identification restrictions that would have forced airline passengers to seek other approved forms of ID, like a passport.
About half of the states in America are not in compliance with the new and stricter federal ID standards. States in full compliance as of Nov. 20, 2017, are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
States granted an extensive until October 2018 are: Alaska, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington.
American Samoa, Guam, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and the U.S. Virgin Islands are awaiting a review of their extension requests from DHS.
Cautiously optimistic about state extensions
“We are cautiously optimistic that DHS will continue to grant state extensions in short order and that we will not see widespread travel disruptions come January 2018,” said Genevieve Strand, American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) manager, government and industry affairs.
Speaking at the Best of the Best conference this past weekend, Travel Impressions President Scott Wiseman said his “sources” are expecting all states will receive an extension before the January 2018 deadline.
An up-to-date, interactive map of the current status of states and territories can be found here.
While ASTA cannot officially confirm that the U.S. government is going to extend every state not currently in compliance, “based on our current understanding of the political landscape and the extension process, we believe there is no cause for concern at this stage and that states will be granted renewed extensions,” Strand said.
“We have heard from our sources at DHS that the Department will work with all states making an effort to comply with the law and that many of the states currently ‘under review’ have not simply asked for extensions but have actually submitted full compliance packages which DHS is in the process of reviewing,” said Strand. “Our advice boils down to this – if our agent’s clients really don’t want to worry about this issue, they should get a passport or passport card, which can always be used as identification.”
According the State Department, Strand said, processing times for routine passport applications are an average of 8.5 business days, while expedited applications take an average of 3.2 business days. September through December is considered “off-peak” time for the passport office, with January through August being “peak season” when passport processing is slower.
“DHS is doing a good job of keeping the website up to date and ASTA is providing regular updates to members,” Strand said, including email updates and multiple member webinars, like the one held jointly with the State Department in September.
“ASTA will continue to monitor the situation and will continue to keep members apprised of any new developments so they are armed with up-to-date information to best serve their clients,” Strand said.
Full enforcement of the REAL ID Act is still set to begin on Oct. 1, 2020. By that deadline, TSA will only accept compliant licenses issued by compliant states, or alternative forms of identification.