The Real ID Act requires that driver’s licenses meet standards set by the Department of Homeland Security by October 2020. Many states are already compliant and others have been given extensions.

In the past several months, there has been plenty of conversation about the Real ID Act and how it will affect air travelers. Passed by Congress in 2005, the act is intended to prevent identity fraud, and starting on Oct. 1, 2020, all fliers who reside in the United States, even if they’re flying domestically, will need Real ID identification to pass through Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints at airports.

Who exactly is affected and what exactly is Real ID identification? Here, answers to questions about what the Real ID Act means for travelers and why having a passport now may be more important than ever.

What exactly is the Real ID Act?

The act is intended to enhance national security by establishing minimum standards for the secure issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards, according to Steve Yonkers, the director of the Real ID program for the Department of Homeland Security.

“The act is meant to stop the production of fake IDs,” Mr. Yonkers said.

Why is the act being implemented?

Congress passed the act on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which advised that the federal government set minimum security standards for how states issue identification and for how that identification is used. “The commission recognized that sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists,” Mr. Yonkers said.

When does it go into effect and for which states?

Currently, all 50 states are either compliant or have extensions, meaning none of these residents need alternative identification. There are 28 states that are now Real ID compliant, including Texas, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Colorado, while 26 states and territories have been granted extensions until Oct. 10, 2018 by the department. Note that travelers from states with extensions will not likely need to have Real ID compliant identification by Oct. 10 — the date is only a deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to receive a state’s request for a renewed Real ID extension, if needed. In past years, the agency has provided a grace period for approximately 90 days before enforcement would begin for a state not granted a renewed extension. The department will issue information about the next extension cycle later this year. For a complete list, visit

But what does the Real ID Act mean for air travelers?

Right now, nothing. On Jan. 22, however, residents of two United States territories, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands, could be the subject of Real ID enforcement because they are still under review to get extensions. But as of Oct. 1, 2020, the T.S.A. will ask all travelers to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or alternate acceptable identification to fly domestically.

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