The Transportation Security Administration has begun posting airport signs to warn travelers about a deadline a year from now for identification to board planes.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID program requires states to adopt better security measures for driver’s licenses and other identification, to discourage forgeries and prevent terrorism. Only about half the states have complied already with the program Congress created in 2005, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
“Given today’s threat environment, this requirement is as relevant now as it was when the 9/11 Commission recommended it," Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, said in announcing the deadlines a year ago.
TSA's airport signs target residents of the nine states whose identification doesn’t yet comply with the federal requirements.
The states where residents will need identification other than driver’s licenses to fly on Jan. 22, 2018, are: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.
But some critics have been reluctant to participate, out of privacy concerns and fears that it could lead to a national identity card. The federal standards require anti-counterfeit technology in the cards, and require states to verify an applicant’s identity and conduct background checks on workers who issue the licenses.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has said "Montanans do not want or need Real ID," a program he said "raises real concerns about the unnecessary collection of Montanans' personal and private information by the federal government." Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed legislation in April that aimed to make driver's licenses compliant, saying "it has become increasingly clear that there is tremendous opposition and misunderstanding about the bill."
TSA accepts alternative forms of identification, such as a passport, military ID or permanent-resident card. But because so many travelers use driver’s licenses for identification at TSA checkpoints, the agency posted signs as a reminder about the looming deadline.
“ID requirements are changing,” the signs state. “Starting January 22, 2018, you will need a driver’s license or ID from a state compliant with the Real ID Act, a state that has an extension for compliance or an alternate ID to fly.”
But part of the difficulty adopting Real ID – the reason for TSA’s early warning – is that some state legislatures meet for just a few months a year and still need to adopt policies or funding to comply.
Besides the effect on flights, residents of the eight non-compliant states other than Oklahoma won’t be able to use their driver’s licenses to enter federal agencies or nuclear power plants starting Jan. 30, 2017.
Five states – Alaska, California, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia – got federal extensions for residents to use their driver’s licenses for federal agencies through June 6.
Another dozen states have extensions to use driver’s licenses for federal agencies through Oct. 10. Those states are: Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas.
Even states with temporary extensions must adopt Real ID standards by Oct. 1, 2020, or their residents will need alternate identification at that point.