Getting Ready for REAL ID - Things A People Ops Leader Needs to Know
You’ve probably heard the rumor – perhaps for years: soon you will need “Real ID” to board a domestic flight in the US. Like almost everyone else, even if you’ve heard that rumor you’ve probably ignored it. But it is true, and the change is coming. No need to panic, though, the deadline to comply has been pushed forward (again) to October 1, 2020.
As of that date, your run-of-the-mill driver’s license will no longer be accepted as ID in order to pass through a TSA security checkpoint at the airport or board a plane for any domestic flight. Instead, you will need a new-and-improved driver’s license that meets Real ID standards. (Or a military ID or federal government PIV card, neither of which typically apply to business travelers.)
What’s the difference?
The rules vary from state to state when it comes to what type(s) of identification you must show to obtain a driver’s license. The Real ID program established minimum standards which, in their words, would “dramatically enhance and improve commercial aviation security.” In real terms, that means you now have to show more proof of identity to get a Real ID license – two proofs of residency (a pay stub, utility bill, etc.) plus proof of your Social Security Number (your SSA card or W-2 form).
Why are we doing this?
Congress passed a number of increased-security measures following the 9/11 attacks. One, in 2005, was aimed at improving identification of domestic air passengers, by requiring “higher quality” personal documentation. It targeted driver’s licenses. Technically the federal government can’t tell states what to do regarding these documents, but they effectively did so anyway. TSA (and all other federal agencies) would simply stop accepting driver’s licenses that didn’t meet the new standards. And that’s the part travelers care about.
Or maybe not. You can always use your passport as ID to board any flight to anywhere, domestic or international.
And then there’s the Enhanced Driver’s License
If you live in Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, or Washington State, you might have what’s called an Enhanced Driver’s License, with an embedded RFID chip that links to your essential personal ID information. When you enter a federal building or cross a US border, a scanner reads the chip to verify your identity. If you have a license like this, you do not need a Real ID license.
How can you tell if you have the Real Thing?
Just look at your driver’s license. If it has a star up top, you’re good. Only a handful of states are still getting with the program. As of right now, they are California, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Oregon. All will supposedly be in compliance by October 2019, a year ahead of the formal deadline.
If you live in one of the not-yet-compliant states, you might want to check with your local DMV office to see if there’s anything you need to do. Otherwise, if you have a driver’s license that bears a star or a current passport, you can continue to ignore the hype about Real ID. You’re good to go, as they say.