A new federal requirement will go into effect next year that may come as a surprise to some air travelers. As of October 1, 2020, all those boarding commercial planes will be required to have identification that meets new REAL ID security standards. Those without this updated form of identification could be turned away at the airport.
To avoid missing a future flight, Americans should take time now to ensure they have a valid form of ID that complies with the requirements. For most travelers this means making sure they have a valid passport or an updated driver’s license. A Mississippi license is up to date if it includes a white star surrounded by a gold circle in the upper-right corner.
Mississippians who do not see that mark can obtain an updated ID at a local DMV or visit www.driverservicebureau.dps.ms.gov. Older licenses can still be used for driving, voting, accessing hospitals, and many other services after October 1, 2020 – but not for air travel.
What is Real ID?
National standards for identification were recommended by the 9/11 Commission to improve security, combat forgeries, and reduce fraud. In addition to new state-issued driver’s licenses, REAL ID-compliant forms of identification include passports, passport cards, and military IDs.
Mississippi began issuing the new licenses in 2018, but many in our state have yet to update their IDs. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s Driver Service Bureau estimates that 1.2 million Mississippi drivers still do not have the updated form of ID for air travel.
I am increasingly concerned that the flying public has not been well enough informed about these new requirements, which could lead to mass confusion at airports next year. The U.S. Travel Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes business travel, recently reported that Americans have little understanding of what the new ID requirements are or how to comply with them.
Today 39 percent of Americans still do not have the updated ID. Unless this number improves by October 1, 2020, 78,500 travelers could be turned away daily by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This would prevent families from reuniting for holidays, delay business travel, and cost our economy an estimated $40.3 million per day.
Public Awareness is Key
As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, I am working to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Last month I wrote to the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and travel industry stakeholders asking that they step up their efforts to educate the public about the REAL ID Act. Visitors to my Washington office now see a sign outside my door detailing everything they need to know about the law, and there are similar signs in airports across the country.There is no reason why the new ID requirements coming next October should be a surprise. There is still plenty of time for Mississippians and travelers across this country to check their licenses and, if necessary, update their identification. With increased public awareness, engaged business and government leaders, and clear communication, the law can be implemented successfully and make air travel safer than ever.