Driver licenses from Maine and Montana join ranks of those no longer accepted for entry to Federal facilities
As January comes to a close, so too does the privilege for residents of two more states to use driver licenses to enter Federal facilities. Maine and Montana join the ranks of states that missed the Real ID deadline and failed to — or opted not to — request compliance extensions. They join Minnesota, Missouri and Washington residents who have already been required to tote a passport or other approved ID to enter military bases and government locations.
The official penalty for Real ID noncompliance at this point is that Federal agencies and nuclear power plants cannot accept driver licenses and state-issued IDs from noncompliant states. Unless the individual is in possession of another approved identification document — such as a passport — they will be declined entry.
For Minnesota, Missouri and Washington residents this policy has been in effect but for Maine and Montana, the magic date is January 30, 2017. On this date, the grace period for their state’s declined extension runs out.
For at least some of these states, it is not a matter of laziness but rather a choice on the part of state leaders and legislatures to protest the program. Back in 2011, Montana and Washington were noted as having laws prohibiting Real ID compliance and Maine, Minnesota and Missouri were among the bottom tier of states in terms of compliance indicators.
Currently, noncompliance only inconveniences a small portion of residents of the five states, as most of people don’t frequent nuclear facilities, military bases of Federal agencies.
The real problem doesn’t start for another year.
On January 22, 2018, for states that are not yet compliant with REAL ID and have not received an extension, passengers will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel. In other words, they cannot use their driver license to board a commercial flight.
If a state is compliant or has an extension, passengers can present a new compliant license if they have obtained one or they can continue to use their prior license assuming it has not expired. Older, pre-Real ID documents will be accepted so long as the state is on the path toward compliance.
But fast forward just a couple more years and every passenger will be required to possess a compliant document. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel. A REAL ID compliant license is one that meets, and is issued by a state that complies with, the REAL ID Act’s security standards.”
Here is where it gets interesting.
Only 25 states and the District of Columbia are actually issuing compliant credentials today, which means they are providing Real ID compliant documents to new and replacement cardholders. That leaves 25 other states and 5 territories in limbo. Extensions run out for all in either June or October of this year, leaving little time for states to prepare if they have not started the process.
And as time is drawing near, insiders say the Department of Homeland Security seems less willing to grant extensions and has already declined in some cases. In a letter to Missouri obtained by the Associated Press (http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-real-id-20160103-story.html), DHS notified that the state’s extension was ending and stated, “as we continue the phased-in enforcement of the Real ID Act, the consequences of continued noncompliance will grow with each milestone.”
At least some states are working to rectify the situation for their residents. Legislation is moving through the Washington Senate to bring the state into compliance. Certainly many others are doing the same or will do so when their legislatures convene.
State-by-state Real ID status (as of January 15, 2017):
Exactly one-half of the 50 U.S. states are currently compliant with Real ID:
- Arkansas …