Update: Basically this whole post could be simplified to the following: If your state ID contains a gold circle with a star cutout similar to the one seen in the image above you can stop reading. If not, please continue. Apparently the logo will eventually be on all compliant state ID cards.

In 2005, congress passed the Real ID act (I was shocked something was passed too, only kidding) which established minimum security standards for state issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. Further, the act prohibits federal agencies, the TSA, from accepting ID cards which do not meet or exceed the established standards.

When Does Real ID Begin?

Technically the process began on October 10, 2016, but January 22, 2018 appears to be the firm deadline. However, states will be granted extensions on a state by state basis. Lastly, on October 1, 2020 all travelers will be required to have a Real ID compliant identification card in order to travel.

I know what you’re thinking and you are right, those are the most arbitrary dates you have ever seen in your entire life. They do not seem to correspond to ANYTHING logical. Also, the list of states with extensions seems to be ever changing. For the most current information this site seem to be your best best for up to date information.

Who Does This Affect?

Seemingly every US citizen will eventually of already has been affected by this requirement, but residents in the following states should be especially concerned:

“Noncompliant States/Territories

The following states remain noncompliant and have not been granted a renewed extension and will be subject to REAL ID enforcement following a short grace period. Starting January 30, 2017, Federal agencies and nuclear power plants may not accept for official purposes driver’s licenses and state IDs from a noncompliant state/territory without an extension.

S. Carolina

The following states did not receive an extension for 2016 or 2017. Therefore, they continue to be subject to current enforcement activities. Federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses and identification cards from these states:

+ Federal officials may continue to accept Enhanced Driver’s Licenses from these states.”

What To Do?

First, use this site to check your states’ status. If your state is in compliance you should have nothing to worry about. If not, it may be worth carrying a passport for domestic travel just to be safe or standing in line at the DMV for a new driver’s license.

Final Thoughts

I am a bit stumped as to what exactly is going on. Apparently, my home state Missouri is not in compliance, but issues “Enhanced” Driver’s Licenses which allow safe passage through TSA Security Checkpoints. The whole point of this post was to research what exactly the Real ID policy change meant to travelers and to get a better understanding of what is happening, but I am afraid after reading the TSA’s website I have more questions than answers.

Also, what immediately got me interested was signage at a TSA Checkpoint with a list of non-compliant states, but who knows how accurate that list is at any point in time with all of the extensions or qualifications that may surround your state ID card. According to the TSA approximately 90% of US driver’s licenses are already in compliance or the state has an active extension.

Lastly, it is ultimately possible to travel without a government issued ID, although it requires a significant amount of paperwork, and an additional security screening. (I used to forget my ID a lot)

For more information please visit the TSA’s Real ID website. If you are further confused as I was, please let the TSA know by telling them the page was not helpful because it was too confusing at the bottom of the page.