Do you need a passport for domestic flights? No, but you do need a valid ID and your drivers license may no longer be acceptable. The Real ID Act is in full effect and most states now issue compliant IDs. But that doesn’t mean your current drivers license is valid for domestic air travel. You may need to update your ID or get a passport in order to fly within the USA.
What is the Real ID Act?
In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act. In response to the 9/11 attacks, the Real ID Act created new security standards for state’s driver’s licenses and IDs. If you live in a Real ID-compliant state, you probably noticed that you have had to bring additional documents with you the last time you renewed your driver’s license.
Currently, most states (including Washington, DC) issue Real ID-compliant licenses. But that doesn’t mean your state ID or drivers license is valid. The Department of Homeland Security is now reporting 47 out of 50 states as currently REAL ID compliant. But unfortunately only 27% of Americans have been issued a REAL ID at this time.
“This is an important step in enhancing commercial aviation security and we urge travelers to ensure they have compliant documents,” said Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan. “DHS is committed to working with states as they continue their efforts to issue REAL IDs to Americans.”
REAL ID: Is Your State Compliant?
As of November 2019, all states are compliant except Oregon and Oklahoma as they are currently under extension and New Jersey and America Samoa are under review. Check this map from the Department of Homeland Security to see the latest updates to the list of states currently compliant with the Real ID Act.
Will You Need a Passport for Domestic Flights in 2020?
Just because your state is now compliant doesn’t mean your ID is compliant. You may need to get the new state ID or drivers license. For many travelers, a passport is a better and safer alternative. Your US Passport is a federally recognized ID and can be used for travel anywhere in America and across the globe. Our advice: just skip the drama. Get a passport, and you’ll be covered no matter where you plan to travel!
Other Approved Forms of ID
Don’t want to get a passport? You do have other options. For example, Minnesota’s regular license is not compliant. But the enhanced driver’s license, (which has a RFID chip like a passport) is compliant. Plus, with an enhanced driver’s license, you can drive (but not fly) across the border to Mexico or Canada.
Not all states issue enhanced driver’s licenses. Besides a passport, other acceptable documents include:
- DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
- US military ID
- Permanent resident card
- Border crossing card
- Tribal photo ID
- HSPD-12 PIV card
- Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- Transportation worker identification credential
As you can see, using a passport or a passport card for domestic flights is the most practical option for most people.
Remember, you can only use a passport card for domestic flights. If your destination is outside of the US, you’ll need a passport book.
For more on the differences, see Passports vs Passport Cards.
Getting a Passport
Plan ahead. If you don’t have a compliant ID and you have a trip planned, apply for a passport well ahead of time. Getting your passport can take 4 to 6 weeks for regular processing and 3 weeks for expedited processing from the post office.
If you need a passport more quickly, you can make an appointment at the nearest regional passport agency, or RushMyPassport can submit your application for you for an additional fee. In both cases, your application can be processed in as little as one business day. Expediting companies like RushMyPassport help you with the application, help catch and correct mistakes and provide super-fast processing with no need to travel to an agency or wait in line.
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