It’s Time for States to Get REAL

Christine Bulgozdi
Senior Editor
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2018


After years of waiting, the final implementation extension deadlines for compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005 are near. The most recent extensions for certain states pushed the final compliance deadline to October 10, 2017. Assuming the Federal Government does not grant further extensions, by this date all 50 states must be compliant with the Act.

The REAL ID Act of 2005

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 (“Act”) at the advice of the 9/11 Commission. The Act sets national standards for different forms of identification including driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards. The Act is an anti-terrorism measure, which will prevent citizens from entering federal facilities or boarding commercial flights if identification cards or drivers’ licenses are not in compliance with the Act.

As of August 2017, 27 states are certified compliant and the remaining 23 have been granted extensions. Luckily, final and full enforcement requiring all air travelers to show compliant identification is not until October 1, 2020. However, there are earlier enforcement deadlines. For states not yet in compliance with the Act, the most recent extension deadline is October 10, 2017. Unless the Department for Homeland Security (“DHS”) grants additional extensions, all states must fully comply by this date. Moreover, beginning January 22, 2018, citizens of states that are not in compliance, or have not been granted an additional extension, will need to show an alternate form of identification for boarding domestic flights. Currently, federal facilities already turn away citizens from certain non-compliant states unless additional identification is also provided.

Minnesota and Missouri: Almost There!

In May 2017, Minnesota finally passed legislation to come into compliance with the Act. Minnesota currently does provide “enhanced” driver’s licenses, which are deemed to comply with the Act, but are more expensive and require additional documentation from citizens to acquire. Even this “enhanced” form of identification for Minnesotans will be deemed non-compliant as of October 2020. For everyone else, the new law in Minnesota sets October 1, 2018 as the date that its Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services must begin issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. Until then, citizens will need to provide the alternate identification at airports after January 22, 2018.

Missouri is one of several states that will begin issuing compliant IDs in early to mid 2019. In Missouri, the Governor only signed legislation to bring the state into compliance this past June, with an effective date of August 28, 2017. With the state beginning its journey into compliance, it has high hopes that DHS will grant another extension so that citizens can use current forms of identification to board commercial flights beginning January 22, 2018. Without this extension, citizens of the state will have to provide alternate forms of identification until the state can issue its REAL ID compliant cards. Missouri officials anticipate that the state will start issuing these compliant identification cards and driver’s licenses by February 2019.

Oregon: Too Little, Too Late?

Additionally, Oregon is not yet in full compliance with the Act and will be one of the last to issue compliant cards. With three extensions already granted, Oregon still does not have compliant identification cards or driver’s licenses. However, officials recognize that Oregon continues to take appropriate steps toward compliance. Yet, even with these steps, DHS has not granted it an additional extension for the January 22, 2018 deadline for airport enforcement. Oregon identification cards or driver’s licenses will not be accepted to board commercial flights and will be forced to use a passport or another form of accepted identification. Although Oregon passed legislation for upgraded ID cards that will be compliant with the Act, these upgraded cards will not be available until July 2020, only a few months before the final compliance deadline in October 2020. This leaves citizens minimal time to adjust.

Citizens of non-compliant states must begin thinking about how their lives will be affected early next year. Unfortunately, there is not much one can do in these states except to ensure that they research the appropriate alternate forms of identification that will be accepted at federal facilities and airports. Minnesota, Missouri and Oregon all hope that DHS will grant additional extensions past the January 2018 enforcement date, however, it seems unlikely that this will happen due to the amount of extensions already provided. With this enforcement date looming only three months away, compliance is almost too late for these states.