Residents of nine states will need to dig out their passports to board an airplane – even one flying domestically – come January 22, 2018. Currently, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington fail to comply with the 2005 REAL ID Act, meaning IDs from those states don’t live up to the minimum security requirements for federal IDs. Meaning traveling is about to get a lot more complicated for you if you call one of those places home.
The states in question had a grace period to comply with the act that ended on October 10 and has now been extended to January 22. But if they don’t make the deadline and you happen to live there, it’s time to make sure your passport (or permanent resident card, green card, or military ID) is in good working order. So maybe think about excavating it from whatever secret drawer you keep it in and ensuring it’s not expired. If it is, the US Department of State recommends allowing up to six weeks for passport renewal, though if you’re in a hurry, you can pay extra for an expedited, 21-day option.
Signs have already begun to go up around airports to warn travelers of the change, but since most of us are used to boarding domestic flights with just a driver’s license or ID card, it’s sure to result in some missed flights and harried tourists. And while the law, which was enacted following the 9/11 attacks but not implemented until 2013, is about making air travel safer, the last thing anyone wants is one more thing to stress about while they’re shoeless and scrambling to get through security.
But just because your state isn’t one of the nine listed above doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. According to TSA, if your state is compliant, you can continue to use whatever license you have to fly until October, 2020. But come 2020, you’ll have to make sure your ID is REAL ID compliant, which could mean renewing your license earlier than expected.