Lonely Planet Writer

In two months some US citizens may need a passport to fly domestically

US citizens planning to travel domestically in the future need to be aware of the changes that are taking place in relation to state-issued identification. This ID must be compliant with the requirements set out by a US Congress act if you are to be allowed to board domestic flights or access certain federal facilities from 10 October 2018.

US citizens may need a passport for domestic flights from October 2018. Image: Tanya Constantine

The situation arises from the Real ID Act, which was enacted by the US Congress in May 2005. It establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver’s licenses and identification cards from states that don’t meet the act’s minimum standards for certain purposes. The purposes covered by the act are accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. A standard driver’s license or ID card will work for other forms of travel.

US Passport, wallet dollars and sunglasses
Over half of US states are already compliant. Image by JGI/Jamie Grill

States have been given over a decade to phase in compliant IDs, and by 1 October 2020, travellers must possess a Real ID to pass through TSA checkpoints at US airports. The Department of Homeland Security’s deadline for states to begin issuing Real IDs was 22 January 2018. Over half of states are already compliant, and the remaining states and territories have received extensions until 10 October  2018.

You could be smiling for a passport photo someday. Image by AZarubaika/Getty Images

After that date, travellers who do not have a license from a compliant state will not be permitted through the TSA security checkpoints, unless they can provide an alternate form of ID that is compliant, such as a passport or other forms of ID that are deemed acceptable. The advice given therefore is that if your state has received an extension, is under review or is not compliant, apply for a passport or passport card now if you intend on travelling domestically.

For further information on Real ID, see here.