If You Live in These 12 States, Forget Flying With Your Driver's License

Your driver's license might not get you on an airplane...

In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act. The act set new identification standards for states issuing IDs like driver's licenses.

By October 1, 2020 if you don't have a compliant license, you won't be able to use it to fly or visit federal government facilities.

As of today, 12 states have yet to meet these standards:

Unfortunately, even if you live a REAL ID complaint state, your license might not qualify. Here in Maryland, the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) didn't start issuing REAL ID licenses until January 1, 2018. Look for a star in the upper right corner as a simple way to tell if your ID is compliant.

But here's where it gets complicated... Maryland's MVA sent out IDs with a star that aren't actually complaint.

That's what Health & Wealth Bulletin Managing Editor Laura Bente learned in December when she received an e-mail from the MVA asking her to submit documents to meet the REAL ID Act standards. She renewed her license in 2017, days before Maryland began issuing compliant IDs. Then, she received her new license with a REAL ID compliant star.

It turns out that Maryland was giving out IDs with the star that weren't compliant.

Laura made an appointment a month in advance, hoping to avoid the well-known hours-long wait times at the MVA. The day she went to the MVA, she said the entire process took just 19 minutes. People who hadn't made an appointment said they waited two hours or more.

States are starting to ramp up efforts to roll out compliant IDs. On March 1, Pennsylvania began issuing IDs that comply with the REAL ID Act. Missouri plans to start later this month.

Other states, like Maine, won't begin issuing REAL IDs until July 1.

And, as Laura's problem shows, the transition isn't likely to be smooth for every state.

What to Do Now

So what do you do to avoid any difficulties? Have another form of ID.

If you want to apply for another form of ID, here are the ones accepted under the REAL ID Act (reprinted from the Transportation Security Administration website)...

  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential 

The easiest option for most folks is a passport or passport card. If that's you, know that each one comes with a security risk...

Since 2007, the U.S. State Department has issued passports with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips inside them. The government added these chips in order to make the passports "more secure." Well, this may provide an added level of security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but it blows a gaping hole in your individual privacy and security...

That's because some unscrupulous people can use an RFID reader to access your passport information. This includes all of your biometric data and even your digital picture. And get this... RFID scanners can communicate with chips up to 100 feet away. It is an identity thief's dream.

You can block the RFID chip from connecting with any scanner device by cloaking the passport in a "secure sleeve." These sleeves shield the passport inside a metallic composite material. This prevents communication between the RFID chip and the scanner.

I've found "secure sleeves" for passports (as well as credit cards with internal RFID chips) on Amazon ranging from $5 to $20. And if you don't want to buy the sleeves, you can do what I do and wrap your passport in aluminum foil. The result is the same.

I've also recommended the Global Entry program from the Customs and Border Patrol (No. 2 on the list of accepted IDs)...

Not only does Global Entry reduce wait times and get you through customs faster, but you receive an ID card that meets the REAL ID requirements. Plus, you're eligible for TSA PreCheck. That's a program that lets you zip through security screening lines. (Read more about it here.) I love using that to skip all the long waits.

Have you experienced any issues with ID while traveling? Write to us at [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 7, 2019