Home Tips and Tricks Is Your Driver’s License Valid ID To Get On A Plane? Maybe Not.

Is Your Driver’s License Valid ID To Get On A Plane? Maybe Not.

by joeheg

Showing your driver’s license has been acceptable proof of identification to board a plane for as long as IDs have been required. Up until now, that is. If you’ve traveled recently, you may have noticed a sign at the TSA checkpoint informing you of upcoming changes.

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What is Real ID?

Here’s a explanation REAL ID from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Website:

Secure driver’s licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

DHS is committed to enforcing the REAL ID Act in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and regulatory timeframes and is not inclined to grant additional extensions to any states that are not both committed to achieving full compliance and making substantial and documented progress in satisfying any unmet requirements. It has been 12 years since the REAL ID Act was passed and half of all the states have already met the REAL ID minimum standards. It is time that the remaining jurisdictions turn their commitments to secure identification into action.

This isn’t a new law. States have had over a decade to make changes to driver’s licenses in order to make them REAL ID compliant and half of the states have done so. However, some states decided to not comply with the law, even passing laws preventing its implementation. The DHS is now playing a game of chicken with the non-compliant states by threatening to keep those with non-compliant driver’s licenses from boarding a plane without an alternate, compliant form of ID. The hope is this will cause people of those states to demand their state become compliant out of the fear they won’t be able to fly on a plane. It appears to be working, as some of the states who were against REAL ID, such as Minnesota and Oklahoma, have passed laws to get their states into compliance.

I live in a state that is REAL ID compliant so I’m not directly affected by this back and forth. Renewing my driver’s license was more difficult under REAL ID because I had to go in person to the office, bring my documentation with me and get a new picture taken. I could see how if you don’t have all of the necessary documents, like a birth certificate, it requires significant effort to acquire those papers before renewing. Before you complain too much, ask yourself if it was ever OK to have a government ID with no documentation and that had a picture of someone that was taken 25 years ago?

What states are affected?

The list of states is constantly changing. The current exemption period to comply with REAL ID ended on October 10, 2017. States were allowed to file for yet ANOTHER EXEMPTION and if they are found to be making significant progress towards meeting the requirements, IDs from the state will be allowed until October 10, 2018. A current map showing if your state is compliant, has an exemption until 2018 or is still under review can be found at https://www.dhs.gov/real-id

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What can you do?

I’d never depend on the government to get things done on time. If you’re in a state that’s still getting by with an extension, you might want to call your state representative and find out why they haven’t managed to get REAL ID compliant in the last decade.

After that, here is the advice from the TSA:

If you are concerned that your state-issued driver’s license or photo ID may not be accepted by TSA beginning January 22, 2018, apply for an alternative identification document well ahead of your planned travel dates. Ensure you have an acceptable ID and boarding pass ready before arriving at the airport. Refer to the current list of acceptable IDs below or at


  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)

If you already have a passport, you’re fine. That’s a valid ID. The same thing for a U.S. Passport Card, if you have one. The latter is easier to carry in your wallet.

If you’ve applied for a DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST), the card you have from that program would also be valid ID for air travel. Please note that just having TSA Pre✓® is not enough. That’s just another reason why you should get Global Entry instead.

Final Thoughts

Getting all the U.S. states and territories on the same page in regards to what makes an identification valid wasn’t easy. We’re over ten years from when these guidelines were put into place and we’re still waiting for about half the states to complete the process. It seems like the Federal Government is starting to lose their patience so it’s up to you to make sure you have the necessary documentation. Your vacation, or job, may depend on it.

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junolvr October 27, 2017 - 3:17 am

I’m from Oklahoma and my mom was just telling me about this. She’s struggling trying to figure out how to get passports for my family ahead of their visit next year. She’s not really computer savvy and she can’t afford it! It’s very frustrating for Oklahomans.

joeheg October 27, 2017 - 11:13 am

Oklahoma has received an extension so your mom’s drivers license will be good for flights until Oct 10, 2018. It looks like the state government has finally accepted that they need to start making REAL ID compliant licenses so hopefully this will not be a problem for much longer. https://www.ok.gov/dps/FAQs/REAL_ID_FAQs.html

Suzanne Fluhr October 29, 2017 - 11:06 pm

I’m a Pennsylvanian and we seem to have been granted another extension for our Real ID licenses. Whew. My application for Global Entry is pending. Our next 3 trips by plane are international, so we’ll have to have our passports with us, but I don’t want to be at a Pennsylvania Airport in October 19, 2018.

joeheg October 31, 2017 - 3:42 pm

It looks like PA has repealed the law preventing them from complying to REAL ID and new drivers licenses will be available in 2019. I’d imagine that will be enough to get them another waiver, but who knows. http://www.dmv.pa.gov/Pages/REAL-ID-Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx

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