Millions of Americans Might Soon Need Passports for Domestic Travel

Millions of Americans Might Soon Need Passports for Domestic Travel

It seems inevitable that millions of Americans would soon be required to have a passport for domestic travel, at least those living in four specific states. Ten years ago, the government issued a directive to have stricter standards for IDs issued by the state. However, the states of New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Louisiana, as well as American Samoa have not complied with it and the deadline is fast approaching.

Real ID Act of 2005

The Real ID Act required new safety measures as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, including the implementation of new federal standards for driver’s licenses issued by the state and other non-driver IDs. Under this Act, a state-issued driver’s license should include all the needed information but it should also have a chip that is machine readable. Since a driver’s license is a national ID, American citizens could use it as a form of identification at airports. A driver’s license applicant, under this Act, need to show more proof of identity, including a verified original copy of birth certificate.


Since it was passed in 2005, states have either complied or requested an extension. However, there were states that failed to comply. In the U.S. Mainland, New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Louisiana refused to comply with the Real ID Act, the deadline for the upgrade of which is on January 1, 2016. If the four states would not upgrade their systems, their residents would be required by TSA to show their passports rather than use their drivers’ licenses to board their flights. Passport books and passport cards would be accepted by TSA.

Reasons for non-compliance

One of the given reasons was fear – fear that the cards would contain chips that could potentially expose personal information to hackers, that the ID-issuing process would only benefit the federal government and that it would lead to the creation of a national database so that the government could spy on its citizens. Although the rumors were unfounded, it prompted the lawmakers in Minnesota and New Hampshire to pass laws forbidding compliance to the Real ID Act. New York and Louisiana just took their time and did not adopt the new ID law.

New York applied for a waiver, which was granted so for the time being New Yorkers could still use their old drivers’ licenses as IDs. Louisiana was also granted a waiver until October 16, 2016, while Louisiana’s waiver would expire on June 1, 2016. Only Minnesota was not issued a waiver, thus if Minnesotans want to fly domestic, they should be getting their passports by now.

Image Copyright: gregory21 / 123RF Stock Photo

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