Enacted on May 11, 2005, the Real ID Act is a Congressional act meant to standardize the issuance of various identification documents such as state drivers’ licenses. In addition to standardizing the types and formats of the documents themselves, the procedures for issuing them is also to be streamlined through this Act. Implementation of the law is not yet complete, and its interpretation can be rather complex. Read on for an overview of the act and what it means for the public.

About the Act

This law makes it clear the types of state-issued identification forms will be acceptable for official purposes by the federal government. Such purposes, as defined by the United States Department of Homeland Security, include entering federal buildings, boarding commercial airline flights and obtaining entry to federal nuclear power plants, among any other purpose deemed necessary by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

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What It Entails

There are a number of components within the Real ID Act. The main thing most people are familiar with is the federal standards for issuance of identification such as state driver’s licenses, as mentioned above. In addition, the limitations on visas for some foreign workers falls under the umbrella of this act. The funding of border security reporting and research is also included, as are issues surrounding deportation and asylum of terrorism suspects. Finally, the waiving of laws that have to do with the construction of border barriers is part of the purview of the act.

Phases of the Law

This Act is to be implemented in phases, rather than requiring immediate adherence to its mandates. Phase I began January 20, 2014, with a total of four phases being planned. The final phase is to begin in October 2018, during which it will be necessary that airline passengers from states whose ID issuance is not compliant with the law will need a second form of identification in order to board. As of October 1, 2020, all passengers of domestic commercial flights will need a compliant form of ID or have a separate acceptable type of identification. Thirty-one states and territories have issued identification cards in compliance with the act as of February 2018, and 24 have been granted extensions. Only one was found to be not compliant as of this date.

Some Controversy

Some find this law to be rather controversial, even unconstitutional. There are various opponents such as libertarian groups, immigration advocates, civil rights organizations and those with privacy concerns. Those who oppose the law come from a wide variety of political leanings and views. Some feel it falls under the realm of a “national ID system,” despite the fact that individual states are responsible for issuing IDs. Others feel this requirement is an overreach of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, destroying state sovereignty and placing limits on privacy.

This law will affect most citizens of the United States, as it will soon be necessary to comply with standardized driver’s license requirement for certain types of travel. The Real ID Law has implications that are further relevant to groups such as foreign visitors.