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What You Need to Know About Changes in Domestic Travel Rules

Written by Tasmiah Rashid

Worried about the upcoming changes for domestic travel due to the Real ID Act? We know the list of questions you may have is sure to send your head spinning. In the past year, with the upsurge of news regarding changes in ID requirements for travel, we thought we could clear up some of the confusion you might have. Here’s the five W’s about the act and the TSA rules surrounding it.


What’s the Real ID Act again? In 2005, following the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Congress passed the Real ID Act. The Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production; the end goal being ensured optimum safety before boarding federally regulated commercial aircrafts. You’re probably wondering why it’s taken so long to fully implement? Because of privacy concerns, inconvenience, and cost, several states/territories were slow to comply. So, on December 20, 2013 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented a multi-phased enforcement plan for the Real ID Act… the looming deadline for which is January 2018!


Everywhere. All 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, to be exact. The good news is… there no non-compliant states on the list (PHEW!). However, not all states are fully compliant just yet, either. Many states have been granted an extension to get on board with compliance. So far, only 25 states are fully compliant, with 17 states granted extensions and 12 states/U.S. Territories under review. Check out this map to see what status your state is. If you’re currently living in a state or territory that does not implement the changes and become compliant by January 22, 2018, you may run into some issues. We recommend keeping an eye out for updates (especially if you’re an avid domestic traveler and don’t have TSA pre-check).


Here are some essential dates to remember:

January 22, 2018
Driver’s licenses or state IDs issued by states that are not in compliance with the REAL ID Act and have
not been granted an extension by DHS may not be used to fly within the U.S.

October 1, 2020
Every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license or state ID or another acceptable form of identification to fly within the U.S. So if your state is already compliant, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get that Real-ID compliant license or state identification card. Why stress yourself out and wait until October 2020?  Your state is ready to go, and you will be too!

What Happens After January 22, 2018?

Don’t hit the panic button just yet! Although this is the deadline for the final phase of the Real ID Act implementation, you won’t be completely shunned from air travel if your state is deemed non-compliant. Unless your state is still in extension mode, if you’re traveling domestically by air and with a driver’s license or state ID card that doesn’t comply all you have to do is make sure you have another form of acceptable identification with you to present to the TSA (yet another reason to renew that passport!).


If you’re wondering who this applies to… the answer is everybody. 

If you’ve only recently renewed your license and reside in a state that is Real ID compliant, there might be a chance that you already have a compliant ID and you’re good to go (to travel domestically, that is)! The best way to figure out whether or not you’re in the clear is to go to your state’s website to see what a look at what a Real ID compliant license looks like, and compare it to the one you own currently. If you realize that you don’t have a compliant ID, no need to fret – you’ve got plenty of time! As mentioned, if your state is compliant you’re in the clear until October 1, 2020, and you may continue to use the driver’s license/ state-issued identification that you are currently using. If you’re someone who likes being ahead of the game, you can easily obtain your new ID by heading to your local DMV with proper documentation (the same documents you used to obtain your license) to receive a renewed license, and in some states, you can even do this online!

For all of you that don’t care to update your state ID, don’t have one, or happen to end up in a non-compliant state, you’ve still got plenty of options of TSA accepted identifications for domestic travel. Check them out!


Because your safety is important — duh! It may seem complicated and perhaps even a pain to undergo these upcoming changes in domestic travel rules. But the truth is, that the Real ID Act is a step towards more secure and safer travel. But before you go… here’s some more good news: you’ve got choices! As mentioned before, our first piece of advice to you is to keep an eye peeled for updates regarding your state’s compliance, extension, and implementation status. If you’re not finding the answers you’re looking for contact your state with your questions or send them to the DHS Office of State Issued Identification Support. Last (but surely not the least), if your ID is from a limbo state (in extension or pending review) there’s always that good-ol-passport. Even if your state identification isn’t compliant yet, your passport definitely will be!

Did we miss any details? Tell us what you know about the Real ID Act in the comments below! 
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About the author

Tasmiah Rashid

In a past life, Tasmiah was either a Bollywood actress, renowned ethnographer or master chef; no questions asked. In this one, she is a shower-singing, croissant enthusiast, who also writes content for Fareportal, in that order.

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