In some states, your driver's license soon might not be good enough to board a flight, even if you're traveling within the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security said it will be making a decision this week.
Before you start worrying, there are a boatload of caveats: The government's decision will apply only to people in a handful of states. It wouldn't take effect until at earliest the end of April. And DHS could still decide to postpone its decision, according to a DHS spokeswoman.
Why your driver's license soon might not be good enough to board a flight
Ten years ago, the U.S. government passed the Real ID Act, issuing stricter standards for state-issued IDs, including drivers licenses. The idea was to toughen standards on what documents were needed to get a driver's license, an effort to crack down on the potential for terrorists and criminals to obtain state-issued IDs. The act makes it harder to obtain a drivers license with counterfeit records.
Fewer than half (22) of the states have complied with the law.
Though the law states that noncompliant IDs cannot be used to board domestic flights, DHS and the TSA have not been enforcing that standard. But DHS has said it would make an announcement about enforcing the law on air travelers -- and what that means for fliers -- before the end of 2015. And here we are, in the last week of 2015.
Once the rules are enforced, affected travelers will likely need a passport or another valid government ID to fly.
The good news is that the majority of fliers in noncompliant states aren't at risk anytime soon: 19 states have been granted waiver extensions through October 10, 2016, and four states are currently under review for an extension.
Five states are noncompliant
That leaves just five states that have been deemed noncompliant, have not been granted an extension and do not have extensions under review.
- New Mexico;
But even if you live in those states, don't fret just yet: DHS hasn't issued its schedule for enforcement. If and when it does, there still will be 120 days notice before the TSA no longer accepts their IDs.
And the situation is fluid: Those states could still appeal DHS' decision not to grant a waiver extension, the DHS spokeswoman said.
Four states' waiver extensions are pending review
These states applied for waiver extensions, and DHS is still reviewing their requests. All of these states were previously granted waivers that are set to expire on January 10, 2016.
- New Jersey;
- South Carolina
19 states have been granted waiver extensions
Except for New Hampshire, all of these states' waiver extensions are set to expire on October 10, 2016. New Hampshire's extension lasts through June 1, 2016.
- New Hampshire;
- New York;
- North Carolina;
- North Dakota;
- Rhode Island;
22 states comply with the law
These states, along with Washington, D.C., already have issued drivers' licenses that comply with the Real ID Act.
- South Dakota;
- West Virginia;