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Tipsheet

Travelers From Some States Will Soon Be Required to Show a Passport to Fly Domestically

Beginning in 2016, individuals from New York, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and American Samoa will no longer be able to board a domestic commercial flight with just their driver’s licenses as proof of identification.

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The licenses from these locations have been deemed “noncompliant” under the terms outlined in the 2005 Real ID Act, which “is a coordinated effort by the states and the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.” The Act is being rolled out in phases and implements the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations regarding standards that should be enforced for issuance of IDs.

So what’s wrong with the way these locations issue IDs?

A “Not for Federal Identification” or a similar mark means that the issuing state offers its residents the option to obtain a driver’s license or identity card which is not compliant with REAL ID and that the license holder has chosen to exercise that option. A variety of reasons may underlie that choice, including personal preference, religious conviction, or the inability or decision not to provide original documents needed to verify identity, citizenship, or lawful status in the United States. No inferences or assumptions should be drawn about the particular reason an individual possesses a card with this mark, including inferences or assumptions about the person’s citizenship or immigration status.

The Agency notes individuals affected by the Real ID requirements may use an alternative form of identification documents such as a U.S. passport or Permanent Residency Card.

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The new rules will go into effect sometime in 2016 (the exact date has not been announced), and there will be a three-month forgiveness period, during which people with these licenses will be warned that their IDs are no longer valid for flights.

Here’s the breakdown: if you're from one of these states, “acceptable” IDs include passports and passport cards, as well as permanent resident cards, U.S. military ID, and DHS trusted traveler cards such a Global Entry and NEXUS.

The TSA will also accept Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, the kind that are currently used to replace passports for travel to and from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Of the noncompliant states, only New York and Minnesota issue enhanced licenses.

For families from these states, at least children under 18 years old do not need ID when traveling with a companion.

"Preventing terrorists from obtaining state-issued identification documents is critical to securing America against terrorism," DHS explains. "As the 9/11 Commission noted, "For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.""  

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