Effective January 22, 2018, air travelers with a driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) must present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to board a commercial domestic flight.
In 2004, the 9/11 Commission recommended that the U.S. government set standards for the issuance of “sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Commission recognized that “[s]ources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.”
In accordance with that recommendation, Congress enacted the REAL ID Act. This law prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by states that do not meet the law’s standards for secure issuance and production. The law charges the Department of Homeland Security with establishing minimum requirements for these standards.
So, for a license or identification card to be REAL ID Act compliant, the state issuing it must, for example, incorporate anti-counterfeit technology into the card, verify the applicant’s identity and conduct background checks for employees involved in issuing driver’s licenses.
Since its enactment, according to the Department of Homeland Security, it has worked closely with states to support them in coming into compliance with the REAL ID Act standards.
At present, 23 states are fully compliant with the REAL ID Act, and the Department has used its authority to grant states extensions when they demonstrate steps toward compliance. Thus, 27 states and territories have been granted extensions for a period of time to become compliant. Six states and territories – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington and American Samoa – are noncompliant and do not currently have extensions.
Connecticut is compliant with the REAL ID Act. Federal agencies can accept driver’s licenses and identification cards from Connecticut at federal facilities and nuclear power plants.
The agency has now reached the final phase of implementation of the REAL ID Act, which relates to commercial air travel. These are the timelines for that final phase:
- Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight. Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will still be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards.
- Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.
Travelers are encouraged to check the REAL ID compliance status of their state on the DHS website (https://www.dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief) and review the TSA document check list ( https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification ). Travelers may also check with the driver’s licensing agency in their state about how to acquire a REAL ID Act compliant license.
CT Drive Only
The Connecticut DMV has started a Drive Only program for undocumented individuals who are 16 and older and cannot establish their legal presence in the United States or may not have a Social Security number. The process involves applying for a learner’s permit that can then lead to a Drive Only license.
In accordance with state law, the purpose of the Drive Only license program is to improve public safety and to try to ensure that all drivers are tested, know how to drive and understand the rules and laws for driving. A Drive Only license is not valid for federal identification purposes, and cannot be used to vote. Drive Only license licenses are not compliant with the REAL ID Act and cannot serve as a form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.
For more information, visit ct.gov/driveonly.
Domestic Travel for Drive Only license holders
Drive Only licenses are not compliant with the REAL ID Act and cannot serve as a form of acceptable identification for domestic air travelers to board their flight.
According to the TSA document checklist, for Drive Only license holders, a valid foreign government-issued passport is an acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel. Drive Only license holders are encouraged to contact their respective consulate general’s office to inquire about their validity of their passports.
For a complete list of acceptable identification documents, please visit the TSA document checklist at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.