Q: Dear Playground: Do we all need passports now as IDs to fly in the US? I keep reading about how my New Jersey license may not be valid identification at TSA checkpoints anymore. Thanks! Jen B.
A: Great question Jen! Not least of all because I’ve been confused by the TSA announcements as well. In short, there’s no need to worry about this for the near future. Although a deadline for states to comply with new license rules had been threatened for this month, a new ruling has pushed the issue back to January 2018. (New York State, however, is supposed to be compliant by October 2016—it’s possible this date may be pushed back as well).
Here’s what happened: In 2005 the “Real ID Act” was passed by Congress at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. It says that driver’s licenses now need to include social security numbers and immigration status, that licenses need to have the driver’s information embedded on a chip or a strip on the card, and that this information should be shared between states. Many states haven’t yet complied, either due to cost or time issues (New Jersey is included in that category) or, as is the case in Minnesota, New Mexico, Missouri, and Washington, because they don’t agree with this way of tracking data.
These “Real IDs” will eventually be the ID of choice when you fly. For more details, check out this story in The New York Times.
(Note: Children still won’t be required to show photo ID when flying domestically. Read here for all the details about what identification you need when flying with kids.)