Real ID compliance may leave up to 85,000 stranded the first day; senators aren’t having it

The Real ID Act deadline is fast approaching, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is not convinced Americans are ready.

On Jan. 24, Peters co-authored a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to raise concerns about travel interruptions that could arise if travelers fail to present Real ID Act-compliant identification after the Oct. 1 deadline, according to a news release.

The Real ID Act requires all travelers over age 18 to present Real ID-compliant identification to fly.

The main concern of Peters and his colleagues stems from their belief that travelers are not well informed regarding the Real ID deadline, and that DHS does not plan on extending it.

“DHS’ efforts will play a crucial role in ensuring that the public is aware of the deadline and takes the necessary steps to acquire compliant identification,” the letter states. 

New licenses and state ID cards across the country look nearly identical to a standard driver's licenses, with the exception of a symbol in the upper right corner indicating that the card is a REAL ID, a congressionally mandated form of ID that will be required of anyone traveling by air beginning Oct. 1.

“It is critical that the department do everything possible to ensure that Americans are not needlessly prevented from boarding flights to engage in business and tourism and visit family and friends.”

According to the letter, only 27% of Americans have been issued compliant IDs, and 43% don’t know about the deadline. 

This puts as many as 85,000 travelers at risk of being blocked when flying the first day the requirement is in effect if DHS does not take steps to improve public knowledge and preparedness, the letter says.

But do you need a Real ID?

  • A Real ID is a driver’s license or state-issued identification card with a golden star on the top right corner, and it will only be necessary to fly domestically after Oct. 1.
  • According to the DHS website, Real ID compliant documents must be shown to board a domestic flight or enter certain federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants after the deadline.
  • A valid passport can be used to board domestic flights instead of a Real ID. A Real ID driver’s license is not valid identification to board international flights, a valid passport is required.
  • Driver’s licenses that are not Real IDs (do not have a golden star in the top right corner) will still be valid after the deadline. Motorists can use them to drive, but will not be able to board domestic flights with them.
  • State issued identification cards that are not Real IDs will still be accepted at the polls.

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