Rumor Control: TSA, Driver’s Licenses and You

UPDATE: Jan. 11, 2016 – The New York Times reports that states now have an additional two years to bring driver’s licenses into compliance.

Jan. 4, 2016 – You may have seen news stories suggesting driver’s licenses from nine states will no longer be accepted at U.S. airport security checkpoints in January 2016. Don’t believe everything you read and do check out the useful information from the Department of Homeland Security’s website. It’ll help separate fact from fiction, truth from rumor.

LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney says do not panic.

Are Driver’s Licenses Valid ID at Security?

Yes, you can still use a driver’s license as ID at TSA security checkpoints in U.S. airports across the country, at least for the next few months. And this is true even if you live in Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands – despite what you have have read.

120 Days Notice of Any ID Changes

From the Department of Homeland Security website:

DHS will ensure that the traveling public has ample notice, at least 120 days, before any changes are made that might affect their travel planning. Until enforcement [of the REAL ID Act – info below] at the airports begins, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue to accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from all states, as well other forms of acceptable identification listed on the TSA website.”

Other acceptable ID includes passports, military ID, trusted traveler member cards for Global Entry, and more.

Why the Changes: Real ID Act

The confusion over driver’s licenses as acceptable ID goes back to the REAL ID Act of 2005. Its goal was to make it harder to “obtain fake IDs” as Condé Nast Traveler put it and stricter requirements for driver’s licenses were part of the act. Not all states complied, some because of privacy concerns but the DHS is essentially saying relax, we’ll give plenty of notice regarding changes.

More Rumors Dispelled

From DHS’s rumor control page:

  • Rumor: I need to get a new driver’s license or passport”

Fact: The REAL ID Act places the responsibility for action on the state, not residents of the state. Overall, states have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to make driver’s licenses and other identification more secure. Every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before the passage of the Act.”

  • Rumor: The Department of Homeland Security is trying to build a national database with all of our information”

Fact: REAL ID does not build a national database nor does it grant the Federal Government or another state access to a state’s driver’s license data.  REAL ID is not a national identification card. States and territories will continue to issue its own unique license, maintain its own records, and determine who may access those records and under what circumstances.”

See more DHS/TSA rumor control information here.


Updated: January 11, 2016