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The Clock Is Ticking For Millions of Fliers To Update Their IDs (#GotBitcoin?)

After nearly 15 years, the deadline to get a REAL ID driver’s license is finally approaching; travelers without one will have to use their passports even for domestic flights. The Clock Is Ticking For Millions of Fliers To Update Their IDs (#GotBitcoin?)

A major hassle is coming for millions of travelers: Your driver’s license may not be accepted as valid identification at TSA checkpoints 13 months from now.

Unless the federal government delays new requirements again—but don’t count on that.

The Oct. 1, 2020, deadline has the potential to create chaos at airports and disrupt travel significantly. Some estimates suggest half of all travelers may have driver’s licenses that don’t comply with requirements called REAL ID. You can quickly tell if you comply by looking for a star in the upper-right corner of your driver’s license.

Unless you can use a passport, military ID, enhanced driver’s license (one with limited passport information embedded) or other approved identification after the deadline, you may show up at the airport and get subjected to secondary screening. Worse, you may not be able to fly. Secondary screening usually involves an interview and efforts to verify identity, and most checkpoints have limited capacity to do that. If there are too many people without IDs, ticketed passengers will be turned away.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 requires minimum standards for verifying identity when states issue driver’s licenses, plus additional security enhancements. The law came out of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission Report that the government needs to know with certainty who’s who when boarding airplanes or entering secure federal buildings.

Typically that means proving who you are, where you live and what your Social Security number is when you get or renew a driver’s license. Most state DMVs have checklists of what you need to bring to satisfy the requirements.

It has taken more than a decade for many states to comply with the federal requirements. The Department of Homeland Security has continued to issue waivers because so many people don’t have REAL ID licenses.

Florida began issuing the new licenses in 2010 but New York didn’t start until 2017. California, which has 27 million licensed drivers, didn’t start issuing until January 2018. In California, you must make a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles if you want REAL ID.

Maine and New Jersey just started issuing the new licenses this summer. Oklahoma and Oregon won’t get there until mid-2020. Residents in those two states could have a mad scramble of a few months to renew licenses if they count on that as their travel ID.

Even with millions and millions of travelers lacking REAL ID, TSA says it is serious about pressing ahead, rolling out more messages you’ll start seeing soon at checkpoints across the country. New signs warn travelers of the impending deadline. Last month, TSA officers at some airports started telling travelers personally if their ID doesn’t comply. The big nationwide push starts Oct. 1, one year from the deadline.

“You’ll see a lot more in the future from us,” says TSA press secretary Jenny Burke.

Extra-long lines at DMVs across the country are a real concern. The Texas Department of Public Safety is already under fire for three- and four-hour waits for driver’s licenses at Dallas-area offices after closing small offices and consolidating locations, with lines stretching around buildings in sweltering summer heat.

“The way DPS has handled driver’s licenses in the state of Texas is despicable, and it has been nonresponsive,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in March about his own state agency.

The Texas DPS says that by the October 2020 deadline it expects at least 76% of Texas cardholders—driver’s license and ID cards—will be REAL ID-compliant. In Texas, the REAL ID requirements don’t determine whether you can renew online. You are required to renew in person every other time, a DPS spokesman says.

In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles says it is hiring 2,000 additional front-line workers in its 172 field offices and keeping some offices open longer, including Saturdays, to handle the expected rush. So far, about 5.5 million of the 16.5 million driver’s licenses and ID cards issued since January 2018 have been compliant, spokesman Jaime Garza says.

Many drivers don’t fly or are happy to use passports for ID rather than make a trip to the DMV. They can renew online if they don’t want the REAL ID star.

But many simply don’t understand the requirement. The California DMV has been putting up signs and videos in airports, and just hired a marketing firm to spread the message more in local communities. “We’re really making a huge push,” Mr. Garza says. “What people have been confused about is they don’t know what REAL ID is.”

What also isn’t clear is whether the Department of Homeland Security—TSA’s boss—will stick to the 2020 deadline.

DHS, which has been shifting TSA and Customs and Border Protection officers from airports to the southern border, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A waiver pushing back the deadline to avoid airport chaos just one month before the presidential election might seem likely. But deadlines have come and gone before without TSA sounding the alarm. This time is different, the first time TSA is mounting a major campaign toward compliance.

“We are moving forward as if implementation will occur,” TSA’s Ms. Burke says.

It’s probably time to get yourself to the DMV. The Clock Is Ticking,The Clock Is Ticking,The Clock Is Ticking,The Clock Is Ticking


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