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How The REAL ID Act Will Soon Affect Travelers

On January 20, 2018, the REAL ID act will go into the final stages of its enactment for commercial air travelers, completely revolutionizing our standards of identification and fraud while traveling.  What is the change? Only compliant driver’s licenses or other identification will be allowed on domestic flights. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming changes:

What is the REAL ID Act?

Passed by Congress in 2005, this act recommended that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”  It is in the process of regulating state driver’s licenses and identification documentation for security standards. Along with defining the identification process for boarding commercial airlines, it also outlines the protocol for entering federal buildings, nuclear power plants, and even some visas. Regulating travel with this advanced security is the fourth and final stage of enactment.

What is the process and when can we expect to see changes?

We are already in the final stages of these REAL ID act updates. Starting at the beginning of 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced the final changes. In July they began web-based advisories, with the help of airlines and airport stakeholders.
Starting in December 2016, expect to see signage and handouts while traveling through airport checkpoints.

What updates are needed?

Driver’s licenses need to be REAL ID compliant to be used as identification while flying commercially. This includes scannable microchip technology in every driver’s license or identification card. It is the responsibility of the individual states or territories to implement these changes. Most states have already updated the REAL ID standards, but there are a few states/territories that have lagged behind.

How do I know if my state driver’s license is compliant?

The Department of Homeland Security has an up-to-date list of the states that are compliant, under review, have an extension, or are not compliant.  Some states have been granted an extension in the process until June or October 2017 to update their licenses.

What if my state driver’s license or identification card is not accepted?

Starting January 22, 2018, if your state is still not compliant with the new standards, you will have to provide additional documentation. If they do not have this supporting documentation, they will not be allowed to fly.

By 2020, all states should be compliant with the new standards.

Are there any other options?

Passports are now also updated with the same microchip technology as the new driver’s license. If you are concerned about potential delays or ineligibility, renewing or applying for a passport is a great alternative. Be advised, the State Department is anticipating a surge of applications, so start the process sooner than later.

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Know Before You Go: TSA Regulations and Airport Security

It's always a good idea to check the TSA website before you pack.
It’s always a good idea to check the TSA website before you pack.

It was recently reported that yet another gun was found in a carry-on bag at the Salt Lake City International Airport. This was the 27th gun found by TSA screeners this year at that airport. In 2012, 20 guns were seized at that same airport.

Why the increase from 2012 to 2013? It seems the message isn’t reaching the right people. Take note: whether it was an innocent mistake or not, it is a crime to pack a gun in your carry-on bag. Those finding themselves in this predicament will be prosecuted.

It’s always a good idea to check the TSA rules for carry-on baggage (and even checked bags) before you head to the airport. Many items cannot be placed in your carry-on bag, but they can go in your checked bag. And there are some items you can’t pack in either bag–period.

With holiday travel fast approaching, and longer security lines that come with it, it’s best to check the TSA web site before you pack that snow globe and head off to grandma’s house. (By the way, a snow globe that appears to hold less than 3.4 ounces of water–about the size of a tennis ball–and can fit in your quart-size bag with your other small liquids, can be taken with you in your carry on.) You can read the entire list of prohibited items here.

It’s highly recommended that you check the list each time you travel since it can periodically change.