LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - As millions of people prepare to travel for the holidays, there is increasing confusion about a law designed to make airports safer.
Signs at TSA checkpoints about the Real ID Act make many passengers wonder if they will be stranded on an upcoming trip, or forbidden from flying.
The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 as a response to the 9/11 terror attacks. “It’s simply a way to make IDs more secure, as you board a plane, as you enter a federal courthouse,” explained Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which regulates ID cards. “It’s a way to ensure that ID is the person who they think it is.”
Showing a driver’s license to get on a plane is nothing new. But thanks to the Real ID Act, passengers will need a new driver’s license to continue using it to get through security.
“Thankfully, Arkansas was among the first states to be fully compliant,” Hardin noted. “We were fully compliant as of October 2016.”
The Real ID is also called a voluntary enhancement in Arkansas. So far, Hardin said, 54,000 people have gotten the upgrade that will keep them in compliance when the rules change in 2020.
One reason why so few people have converted to the enhanced license is the trove of documentation required to obtain one. Applicants must bring two pieces of proof that they belong in the country (e.g., U.S. Passport, birth certificate, school or work ID, military ID, or concealed handgun license); two pieces of proof of residence (e.g., mortgage/lease agreement, utility bills, bank account statement, hunting/fishing license); and one piece that confirms the applicants Social Security number (e.g., Social Security card, W-2 form, Form 1099).
“We think that the 54,000 is really just, probably the tip of the iceberg,” Hardin stated. “As that October 1, 2020, date nears, and people know that, in order to board an airplane or enter a federal courthouse you have to have this, we expect that number is going to grow exponentially.”
Twenty-three states have not met the federal standard yet. Some, including Louisiana, Missouri, and Illinois, are still waiting for extensions from the Department of Homeland Security. Without extensions, travelers from those states will not be able to use their driver’s licenses to board a flight on January 22.
Signs to that effect are posted now at airports around the country, according to Sari Koshetz, a spokesperson for the TSA. Because Arkansas meets the federal standard, Arkansans will not be affected by the January deadline, but the sings may catch the attention of visitors from other states, she explained.
Hardin said DF&A will launch a significant advertising campaign as the changeover date approaches so that lines at revenue offices will not be overwhelmed. “We really want to be sure that Arkansans know this is an option, and know it’s an option well in advance of October of 2020,” he said.
If travelers choose not to get the enhanced license, they can still fly with a valid Passport, but those typically cost about twice as much as the fee to upgrade to the enhanced driver’s license “If you plan on traveling over the next few years,” Hardin stated, “I would highly advise people to go ahead and get that Real ID.”
Only 25 revenue offices in Arkansas are equipped to make the enhanced driver’s license. Hardin said only a few people have complained about the process, but DF&A has received lots of calls from people who are confused about the types of documents they need to bring with them.