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Is Your Driver’s License Good for Flying?

Atlanta Security Line - Photo Credit: Josh Hallett

Since this article was written in 2017, 40 percent of all driver’s licenses and identification card holders have a new REAL-ID compliant license or ID.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline by a year. The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021 .

Beginning October 1, 2021, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.

The Importance of Your Driver’s License

Your driver’s license is an important document. It certifies that you have earned the privilege to operate a motor vehicle on public roads – not only in your state, but across the country. Your state-issued license also allows you to drive legally in many other countries.

If you are pulled over by a police officer, one of the first thing that he or she will want to see is your driver’s license. Without a driver’s license, you cannot operate a registered vehicle on public roads. If you are involved in a traffic accident, you are also required to show you driver’s license as proof of your identity.

Proof of Identity When You Fly

So far, you have also been able to fly within United States with your driver’s license as only proof of identity. This may, however, soon end for some residents.

On January 22, 2018, you can be denied to board a domestic flight with your driver’s license if your state does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act.

Right now, residents of all states can use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel. Passengers can also continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – such as a Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID.

Arizona driver's license

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005. The Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. It also prohibits federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards that do not meet these minimum standards.

If your state is compliant

If your state is compliant with the REAL ID Act, you may continue to use your state-issued driver’s license or ID for domestic air travel until October 1, 2020 October 1, 2021 – even if the license itself is not compliant. In many cases, you will receive a compliant license as part of the normal renewal cycle.

If your state is NOT compliant

Beginning January 22, 2018, you can only use your state-issued driver’s license or ID, if your state has been granted an extension to the compliance deadline. No extension? Then, you need some other proof of identity. Extensions will only be issued until October 1, 2020 October 1, 2021.

2020 2021: Only REAL ID Compliant Documents Accepted

After September 30, 2020 September 30, 2021, you may only use a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or ID or another acceptable form of ID to travel in the U.S.

States Compliant with the REAL ID Act

In 2017, the following states/territories are compliant with the REAL ID Act:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • DC
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • S. Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Currently, December 2020, all states are compliant.

Real ID compliant Current Status of States / Territories

What You Should Do

Make sure to check the REAL ID compliance status of your state.

The DHS website has the most recent updates.

If your driver’s license isn’t compliant, review TSA’s list of other acceptable forms of identification.

If you have an old license and know that your state is compliant, check with your state DMV on how to get a compliant driver’s license.

Due to the pandemic, the deadline has been extended from October 2020 to October 2021


Photo Credit: Atlanta Security Line by Josh Hallett

About Mark
Problem solver. Entrepreneur. Music nerd. Traveler. Twitter: @markheart0 Facebook: Mark Heart

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