. With Real ID Deadline Looming, Americans Remain Unprepared | Northstar Meetings Group

With Real ID Deadline Looming, Americans Remain Unprepared

Come October 2020, U.S. travelers will require a Real ID or approved passport to board domestic flights.

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When Real ID Is Not Needed
A Real ID will not be required for: 

  • Voting
  • Registering to vote
  • Applying for/receiving federal benefits
  • Being licensed to drive
  • Accessing health or life-preserving services or law enforcement
  • Participating in law-enforcement proceedings or investigations

On Oct. 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will fully roll out enforcement of the Real ID Act -- a federal initiative (first introduced in 2005) to enforce security standards for U.S. license issuance and the licenses/credentials federal agencies will accept for travel identification verification. Come next October, citizens will require a Real ID-compliant driver's license, photo ID card or other form of federally acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board a domestic commercial flight* or to enter any federal building or military establishment that requires identification. 

Yet despite the looming deadline, the U.S. Travel Association says a majority of Americans are unprepared for the change. According to a survey conducted by market research consultancy Longwoods International for U.S. Travel, 72 percent of Americans either do not have a Real ID-compliant driver's license or are unsure if they do. Even more, 57 percent of those surveyed reported unawareness of the deadline and 39 percent (equivalent to 99 million Americans) said they currently do not have any form of approved identification.

Based on the data, U.S. Travel economists estimated the potential economic impact of Real ID implementation: If Real ID standards were to be enforced immediately, at least 78,500 travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in travel-related spending. If that trend sustained for one week, figures could grow to more than 549,500 travelers being prevented from boarding planes and a $282 million loss.

"Our survey gave us the answer we didn't want to hear: There is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from Real ID going into full effect," said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO. "This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at U.S. airports -- it could do significant damage to our nation's economy."

In response to the survey, U.S. Travel has launched an education effort featuring a comprehensive toolkit to inform Americans what Real ID is, among other resources, to better prepare citizens and agencies alike for the change. "We need all hands on deck to avert a big problem next October," Dow stressed. Some notes from the toolkit include the following. 

What is a Real ID? 

Real ID-compliant identification cards are marked with a star symbol in the upper portion of the card. The style of the star will vary depending on geographic location. In some states -- Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington -- Real ID is referred to as an "enhanced driver's license" and will instead be marked with an American flag. The association says it's best to check with your state's DMV directly to determine if your license is Real ID-compliant. 

Who Needs a Real ID? 

All Americans traveling by air will need a Real ID to board a flight within the U.S. on and after Oct. 1, 2020. Exceptions include citizens under the age of 18 (who will be traveling with a compliant 18+ companion), those who only need their ID for purposes of identification and individuals who prefer to travel using their TSA-approved ID (such as a passport) when they fly starting on the enforcement date. 

Where Can One Get a Real ID?

Unless travelers plan to start using their passport for all flights, the DMV is where travelers will need to go to get a Real ID or enhanced driver's license. U.S. Travel urges to check with the state's DMV in advance and gather the required documentation for obtaining a Real ID. Required documentation includes:

  • Proof of identity: certified copy of birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved I-94 form
  • Proof of Social Security: SSN card, W-2 form or pay stub with full SSN
  • Proof of residency: rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill or employment/medical/school document
  • Proof of name change, if applicable: marriage certificate or divorce decree

In addition, the association released a series of policy recommendations to mitigate challenges caused by Real ID implementation. Those include the following. 

Modernize Statutes 

U.S. Travel urges government officials to "Amend the Real ID Act to allow for mobile and web-based Real ID applications and to permit TSA to accept mobile or digital Real ID-compliant driver's licenses, which will reduce DMV backlogs and increase checkpoint efficiency."

Automate TSA Checkpoints 

"Accelerate the implementation of automated identity verification technology for passport holders and trusted travelers," suggests U.S. Travel, which says this "will strengthen security and decrease the number of travelers arriving at TSA checkpoints without accepted identifications."

For more information about Real ID, additional findings from the study, policy recommendations and other resources, visit the U.S. Travel website.

*Travelers flying internationally will still require a U.S. passport. Those on domestic flights will need ony one valid form of identification -- either a Real ID or passport, not both.