Beginning in October, US travelers will have to show a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or another form of identification like a passport to fly within the United States. But according to one report, some residents are having trouble with the application process itself, as legitimate passports are being denied as proof of identity. 

Silhouettes of passengers waiting in line at an airport check in counter with an attendant checking real ID or passport and luggage
According to one report, some travelers' passports are being rejected during the Real ID application process @ innovatedcaptures/Getty Images

The problem is a technical one, the Los Angeles Times explained earlier this month, citing the system that “provides a pass/fail verification of US passports” as the culprit. “We’re aware that state offices and Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) are informing some customers that their valid US passports cannot be verified when they apply for Real ID,” a State Department spokesman told the paper. “Some records cannot be verified...even after multiple attempts. When a constituent’s record cannot be verified, he or she may be informed by the state office or DMV that their US passport cannot be used to obtain [a Real ID].”

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent views a traveler's passport at a checkpoint at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S.
US travelers have until 1 October to acquire an ID that complies with the new Real ID requirements © David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Though government officials have pinpointed the system responsible for the current issue, its root cause remains unclear – and so too does a solution. In the meantime, current passport-holders can circumvent the Real ID process altogether by using their passports for travel at home and abroad, while US-born applicants whose passports don’t receive the stamp of approval can submit their birth certificate – the original or a certified copy – along with their applications. (Married residents who have changed their names should submit marriage licenses as well.)

If recent research is any indication, the Real ID roll-out doesn’t need any more obstacles to success. According to a study conducted by the US Travel Association last fall, millions of Americans are unprepared for the looming deadline, with an estimated 99 million saying they don’t have any form of ID that will be accepted come 1 October, and an estimated 182 million – a whopping 72% of respondents – saying they either don’t have a Real ID-compliant license or they’re confused about the concept as a whole. 

Queue of passengers waiting at a boarding gate in an airport. Group of people standing in queue to board airplane.
A recent survey found that if the Real ID requirements had been implemented in the fall, an estimated 78,500 Americans would have been turned away at security © izusek/Getty Images

That could spell trouble, both for individual travelers and for the US economy. The association’s economists project that some 78,500 people could be turned away on the initiative’s first day, at a cost of $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending – and those numbers would only increase as the weeks pass. 

“Our survey gave us the answer we didn’t want to hear: that there is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from Real ID going into full effect,” US Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at US airports—it could do significant damage to our nation’s economy…. We need all hands on deck to avert a big problem next October.”

Read more: 

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