Real ID Act and What it Means for Travelers

Depending on where you live, you may have started to hear whispers that "you know, you need a passport to fly now!" As a Travel Agent, this is a question I've gotten a lot over the past few weeks. The reason this issue has been coming up is due to the Real ID act.  This act was actually passed way back in 2005, and then in 2013, Congress rolled out phases of enforcement. There is a lot to the act, and although I am certainly no expert, I can tell you what it means for travel! This post will have links and resources all in one place to make the transition to Real ID compliance as painless as possible.

Department of Homeland Security has a great list of FAQs that can really help you understand what the law is about. For the purposes of this post, I'm only highlighting what relates to travel and what it means for you. Click here for the link to the FAQs. 

Right now, about half of the United States are in compliance with this law.  There are several others who are under "extensions", allowing time to comply if they choose, and a handful are non-compliant.  You can check on your state by clicking this link.  Compliant states are good to go! Yellow states are under extensions -- those extensions may or may not be renewed, so watch the site for updates on what ID is acceptable. Non-compliant states will need to ensure they have alternate ID.

Our agency is based in Pennsylvania, and PA residents will note that as of January 2018, we will be out of compliance. In fact, there is already signage at Pittsburgh International Airport prepping travelers for the change:

Signage at PIT

Signage at PIT

So, if your state (like PA) is non-compliant with the Real ID act, what does that mean for travel? Basically, you'll need another form of ID to go through security at the airport.  The popular choice is a passport, but there are other acceptable forms of ID (click here). 

If you plan to apply for a passport, save yourself the trouble, apply early! There will likely be an influx of applicants, so be ahead of the game. Applying for a passport isn't as scary as it seems.  In fact, here is a great link to walk you through the process.  If you currently have a passport, check the expiration date, and apply for renewal if it expires in the next year.  Many countries are now requiring your passport to 6+ months left before expiration in order to travel to their country.

Of course, these are just resources for your perusal.  For full, up-to-date info, keep an eye on TSA.gov and the Department of Homeland Security's website. 

Happy Travels!