When people book their flight from New York to Minnesota for the holidays, they don’t generally bother to check their passports to make sure they’re not expired nor do they expect to have trouble when they head to the airport. But that’s all changing as the Real ID Act is taking hold in our nation. We’ll tell you what you need to know about the new laws, and how you may have to fight through traffic next year.
The Real ID Act
As you already know, our entire security process was called into question after the 2001 attacks, and it’s caused many changes to be implemented over the years. Some of these changes, like limiting liquids and forcing people to take off their shoes, were done quickly, while others are still being introduced as laws. But there was also a lot of talk about how to best verify the people who choose to fly. Certain states do not require you to prove your citizenship before getting a drivers license, which raises questions about who will be on the planes. It was decided the TSA will no longer accept drivers licenses from these states anymore. However, because it takes a while for people to adapt to new routines, this particular clause in the Real ID Act has been waiting since 2005 to see a practical application.
What states are affected?
Officially if you’re from one of following states and territories, you will need a passport (or other valid ID card) to fly.
• New York
• New Hampshire
• American Samoa
What does this mean?
Needless to say, it’s going to be quite annoying for many people to have this law enacted — especially considering it’s estimated more than 60% of the people in the country do not have passports. Getting a passport is a lengthy process, and it’s not exactly cheap either. Depending on the government official you approach for an approval, you can be turned away for something as simple as your picture being a millimeter too small or off center. To request this of Americans who were born in this country is going to set off strong feelings about trust, patriotism and security too. No one likes having their freedoms taken away, even if it is in the name of a good cause. While some are absolutely willing to accept the inconvenience in exchange for peace of mind, there’s no doubt there will be people on the other side of the fence who feel just as strongly.
When will this happen?
So far, the date has not yet been announced, but it’s supposed to be this year at some point. For three months after the enforcement, people from these states will still be allowed to fly should they fail to bring their passports, but they will be warned that they need a different form of ID to fly in the future. Also, it looks like New York traffic will have more of a leeway period for this (about a year), so you should have ample warning before this happens.
Can I use something other than my passport?
NEXUS & Global Entry cards, passport cards, US military IDs and permanent resident cards will all work, or you can opt to get an Enhanced Drivers License, which is what replaces passports when it comes to going to and from countries like Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. However, only New York and Minnesota issue these types of licenses. Children who are under 18 still do not need ID to fly.