At the moment, you only need a passport if you’re leaving the country.  But in this age of increased security, will you ever need a passport to board a domestic flight?

Eventually, yes. There is a possibility that you could need a passport to board  a domestic flight if you live in some states. That’s because in 2005, the government passed the REAL ID Act, which created new standards that states were required to apply to their driver’s license and state ID programs in order for those IDs to be accepted for certain purposes. A gold star on the license indicates that it meets the REAL ID qualifications.

Many states acted quickly to  introduce the new requirements, but there were also some holdouts. For example, Alabama and Connecticut just announced that while they would introduce “gold star” licenses that conform to REAL ID standards, they would also continue to issue regular, non-compliant IDs as well.

Eventually, if you live in a state that offers regular IDs and “gold star” licenses, you’ll need a passport to get on even a domestic flight if you select the regular license. This requirement will start in 2014 if you were born after December 1st, 1964, and in 2017 if you were born before that date.

Assuming the law actually goes into effect as planned, that is. A lot can happen between now and 2014, and the ACLU’s David McGuire told the Connecticut Mirror that he is skeptical it will ever be implemented:

 “There really is no need to jump through the hoops and get the verified license. There is virtually no chance that ‘Real ID’ will ever be implemented, or you won’t be able to fly without a verified license or enter a federal building.”

Nothing’s certain, at this point, but if you live in a state that’s not issuing REAL IDs exclusively, you should keep an eye on the situation in the years to come and take it into consideration when it’s time to renew your license.

In the meantime, if you need a passport for an international flight, make sure to apply well in advance of your travel dates. You’ll need at least six weeks if you apply with regular processing, and at least three weeks if you apply for the Department of State’s expedited processing.

For faster processing, you have two options: make an appointment and possibly travel to one of the State Department’s 24 regional passport agency offices or use a private expediting company like RushMyPassport. We hand-deliver your application to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours.

Need a passport fast? Contact us today!