All State Drivers Licenses Will Be Accepted by TSA At Least Until October 1, 2020

The TSA has posted signs at airports saying that people living in several states will no longer be able to use drivers licenses to clear security effective January 22, 2018.

I wrote two months ago that the government blinked and granted further exceptions to states that were at-risk of having their drivers licenses no longer considered valid for federal purposes including airport security under the REAL ID Act. However I’ve continued to see erroneous news stories talking about drivers licenses being refused at security next month.

Now the TSA finally confirms what I wrote two months ago: “U.S. residents in all states can use old driver’s licenses until Oct. 1, 2020.”

A ‘real ID compliant’ license has to have a person’s full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, a unique identifying number, home address, and a front-facing photo. There are also specific anti-counterfeiting measures that must be used, and rules on providing the data on the card in a standard machine-readable format.

Prior to issuing a ‘real ID compliant’ license, a state has to require:

  • A photo ID (they make you present a photo ID to get a photo ID..) or ID that includes full name and birth date
  • Documentation of birth date (usually a birth certificate)
  • Proof of legal status (you’re not an illegal alient) and social security number (something you didn’t even have to have when I was born)
  • Documentation of your residential address

States are required to share data in a searchable database that the federal government hasn’t built yet, so no state could be technically compliant even though DHS says more than half of states are.

DHS bullies states into complying by threatening to refuse travel to their citizens, but continues to back down. I predicted they would back down before the Presidential election and they did. Now they’ve backed down again.

We can confidently predict that the federal government will back down one month before the next Presidential election, too if states haven’t fully met federal demands by then.

ID checks began as security theater after TWA flight 800, President Clinton asked for things he could announce right away. Airlines used to ask for ID to make sure the person traveling was the one that bought the ticket, solely to restrict the resale market for airfare in order to support revenue management systems that increased the price of travel closer to departure (to prevent people from buying tickets cheap and reselling them as travel dates approached — still undercutting the airline’s price). Now the government does the airline’s work for them, ostensibly for security but a determined terrorist (the TSA has never caught a single one) doesn’t have much problem flying with fake documents.

The ‘security purpose’ of ID checks is to try to force people to fly under their real names, so that those names can be checked against the government’s highly flawed watch and do not fly lists. Anyone on such a list, intent on committing a terrorist act, would simply choose not to fly under their own name.

Those lists of course impose substantial burdens on the right to travel.

  • People get added to the ‘do not fly list’ without any due process proceeding
  • It’s not necessary to commit any disqualifying acts to be on that list (they’re pre-crime profiling: mere suspicion that someone might do something in the future)
  • You cannot confront your accuser
  • There’s almost no meaningful and timely redress procedures

TSA now confirms what I wrote in October, that the kabuki theater continues…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a solution in search of a problem. I imagine that most federal agencies have cubicles of people who brainstorm solutions for the sake of solutions.

  2. Government issued photo ids indeed. Some years ago I was going to DC from LGA with two clients from Mumbai and didn’t think to tell them to bring their passports for ID at the airport. When the TSA guy demanded “government issued ID”, my clients , at first, thought they were not going to be able to fly but then remembered they each had a state drinking license. Yes, at least at that time, their state required a license to drink in a public place and they produced worn, flimsy, cardboard pieces of paper with their pictures and all was solved. Could have been produced by a third rate fake ID place in Times Square with no difficulty.

  3. Probably a dumb question, but if for some reason suddenly your state’s drivers license is no longer accepted as a valid form of ID at a TSA checkpoint, would a showing a US passport let you go through?
    I’m usually doing international flying so usually I have my passport on me when I’m at the airport, except for those times I do fly domestic and just have my drivers license as my ID.

  4. @jinxed_k – really. what do you think. The passport is the strongest form of ID and you typically provide your DL as part of the process to begin with.

  5. @jinxed_K Yes, passports work, as do GOES ID cards and I believe passport cards as long as it’s not international travel.

  6. “States are required to share data in a searchable database that the federal government hasn’t built yet, so no state could be technically compliant even though DHS says more than half of states are.”

    16 years after 9/11…

    Let that sink in.

    Then again ATL redundant power supply hello Disneyland power supply hello

  7. As already pointed out, a GOES ID, passport card or passport will satisfy TSA, but don’t meet the itemized requirements of “REAL ID”. Neither my Global Entry card or passport card have an address or signature.. and I got my passport with just a birth certificate and a social security card originally, and used it to get my driver licence later. No address verification,

    But as my state starts issuing “REAL ID” compliant cards next year, they’ll require everyone who already has a licence to go in and meet the documentation demands all over again — and a passport by itself isn’t even enough. Wasteful stupidity that just hurts normal people through knee-jerk legislation passed solely to provide the image of action. A lot of people don’t have these documents on hand, and can’t afford to spend a day at the DMV, and shouldn’t be punished for it.

  8. @strayver When my father moved from Maine to New York in 2015 he was asked to produce his social security card and passport in order to transfer his license. He hadn’t had his physical social security card in years, and they wouldn’t budge without it so he had to go to a Social Security office to get a new paper card issued. You know what they wanted to print him a new card? His passport. It’s all pointless bureaucracy and security theater that doesn’t actually make us any safer; if the federal government really wanted a secure system of ID for every citizen for federal purposes we would have national ID cards like every country in Europe issues…

  9. Couldn’t agree more with straver. I live in a non-compliant state and my license had to be renewed recently. I was told to carry my passport with me because state employees have been told TSA may or may not accept our license as proof of I.d.

    On top of all the hoops we are going to have to jump through when our state does require a new license is all the fees the state will collect from all the new licenses issued. Ridiculous.

  10. I just carry my passport all the time when traveling…even domestically. Makes it all that much easier.

  11. @dan
    Like I said, it’s probably a stupid question.

    Honestly it slipped my mind that you needed to show ID when you are applying for the first time (mine was about 20 years ago) and the passport doesn’t have my signature nor address printed on it (though it is handwritten in), which makes it appear like the “Real ID” compliant ID is actually more stringent than a passport from the requirements listed above.

  12. I enter through a clear lane whereby im not required to present ID and so far that has worked, although finding a clear lane may be a problem in some airports or terminals.

  13. WA state still shows October 2018 on their website, and via the news link referenced. Where do I see “all states to at least to October 2020”? thanks!

  14. “””””Does this mean that any drivers license issued by any state is acceptable?””””””

    Yes. This is the big issue.

    DC and several states have special driver’s licenses that do not require the holder have a social security number. DC’s special one states on the front “Not valid for federal identification purposes”. But until now many people have routinely been using these special drivers licenses to get through TSA. I wonder if TSA agents have been given a list of states with extensions or will just let any state’s licenses through as before.

    This affects 12-20 million US residents whose papers are not in 100% good order. If TSA starts doing immigration checks it’s lines are going to get unbearable. (more unbearable)

  15. what are the requirements after 2020 to travel domestic and international what docmentation
    do you need.

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