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Real ID Becomes a Reality for Fliers in January 2016

Written by  Douglas Cooke

I, for one, was not familiar with the new federal law that will require U.S. citizens flying on domestic flights to present an ID that is compliant with the new federal Real ID mandate. For those that travel with a passport this will be a moot point. However, the 70% of Americans who do not have a passport face a potential denied boarding situation beginning January 1, 2016. Read below for details about the new law to prevent your clients from experiencing problems at the airport.

Starting in January 2016, the Transportation Security Administration will require all airline passengers to present a REAL ID compliant identification card or a passport in order to board a flight. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that 20-30% of Americans live in jurisdictions that are not REAL ID compliant, meaning their driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted during security checks at the airport. Most Americans use a state-issued driver’s license as their primary identification card
In 2005 the REAL ID Act passed into law. However, the REAL ID has experienced significant push back from many non-compliant states, forcing federal officials to delay its implementation. Now, nearly a decade later, the REAL ID is set to launch in airports across the United States starting in January of 2016. At that time the Transportation Security Administration will no longer accept state-issued driver’s licenses that lack REAL ID compliant features as an accepted form of ID for boarding aircraft after the beginning of next year.If your clients use a driver’s license as identification, and it is issued by a non-compliant state, they’ll need to either apply for the REAL ID card or get a passport. While adoption of the federal REAL ID card by citizens may not be mandatory, those who choose not to get a passport or REAL ID will effectively be barred from airline travel. REAL ID compliant cards must capture specific identifying details about each person and associate the data with a unique number. The cards must also contain an electronic swipe feature allowing machines to read and write to them.
Some US states, such as Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Idaho, have passed laws against participating in the REAL ID program, meaning state-issued ID cards from those states may not be compliant in time for 2016. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 20-30% of Americans live in jurisdictions that are not compliant with the program, meaning citizens in those areas may no longer be able to use their state-issued driver’s licenses to board aircraft after January 2016.
Since many people will not have any awareness of this new law, it would behoove our travel agents to advise their clients to either be sure their drivers licenses are compliant or obtain a passport if they don’t already have one. But be sure to give them plenty of notice as the State Department will no doubt receive a slew of passport applications over the coming months.

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