TSA PreCheck Could Serve as a Real ID Stand-In

With two-thirds of Americans still without a Real ID ahead of the October deadline, legislators have introduced a bill that would allow travelers to use their TSA PreCheck memberships instead.

TSA PreCheck Could Serve as a Real ID Stand-In

TSA PreCheck members may be getting some Real ID relief.

Illustration by Singh villasra/Shutterstock

As the October 1, 2020, deadline for obtaining a Real ID fast approaches, members of Congress are hoping to offer travelers some relief by allowing them to use their TSA PreCheck memberships as an alternative to a Real ID.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) recently introduced a bill in the House of Representatives called the Trusted Traveler Real ID Relief Act of 2020, which would require the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to accept PreCheck enrollment as an alternative to Real ID–compliant identification for domestic air travel until April 1, 2022.

“Despite a rapidly approaching deadline, it is clear that not enough Americans are aware of the new and heightened ID travel requirements,” Congresswoman Murphy said in a statement. She added that the bill “will permit those enrolled in TSA PreCheck to continue their journey without disruption, smoothing the transition to these enhanced security standards.”

Congresswoman Lesko stated that her concern is that there will be “mass confusion, chaos, and delays that will most certainly occur across our nation’s airports if proper measures are not taken by October 1.”

The bill has also suggested that TSA develop some alternative and additional screening procedures for passengers who arrive at the airport after October 1 without a Real ID–compliant license—measures that would ultimately allow those passengers to board their aircraft (unfortunately the bill did not provide further specifics on what this bypass system might look like).

DHS moves to make Real ID process easier

Aware of the challenges and concerns regarding the number of travelers who are not yet Real ID compliant, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking into ways to streamline the application process—including allowing applicants to submit their required documentation electronically.

“While progress has been made, the real work is still ahead because approximately two-thirds of all licenses are presently not compliant with Real ID,” DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement this week about the effort to make the application process smoother and quicker.

After soliciting ideas about how to improve the process, the DHS said it will allow states to implement a secure electronic system that will give applicants the option to electronically submit their documents in advance of physically coming into a DMV to obtain a Real ID. While states are now allowed to do this, they are not required to, so this doesn’t guarantee that your state will make this option available (we suggest checking with your DMV to find out if it is).

What’s all the fuss about a Real ID?

In case you haven’t heard—starting this October, TSA will require all travelers to present a Real ID–compliant driver’s license, a valid passport, permanent resident card, or DHS Trusted Traveler Program card, such as Global Entry or Nexus, in order to fly domestically. If you are unable to provide a Real ID–compliant license or other acceptable form of ID as mentioned, you will not be allowed to fly (unless the aforementioned bill makes some changes to the current requirements).

A Real ID is a driver’s license or identification card that meets certain minimum security standards that are intended to ensure that identification cards are more secure. The requirements for Real ID–compliant driver’s licenses vary slightly from state to state since each state handles the issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards independently.

Typically, the main difference in applying for and getting a Real ID–compliant license versus a noncompliant one is in the documentation you need to provide. For instance, to get a Real ID in California, you need to provide an identifying document such as a passport or birth certificate, proof of your Social Security number such as your Social Security card or a W-2 form, and proof of California residency, as outlined on the Real ID explainer portal on the California DMV website.

To see whether you have a compliant card, check for a star. Compliant cards are marked with a star (either gold or black) in the upper portion of the card. Compliant California IDs are marked with a star inside of an image of a bear.

At this point, the vast majority of states are issuing Real ID–compliant licenses and identification cards. Oklahoma and Oregon still aren’t compliant—Oregon has a deadline of August 2, 2020, and Oklahoma’s is September 18, 2020, for becoming compliant. If you live in those states, it would be wise to check to see when they actually become compliant and then go get a new license after identification cards being issued there are Real ID–compliant.

According to DHS, more than 95 million Americans already have Real IDs. It is now focused on the 180 million Americans who still have noncompliant driver’s licenses and ID cards.

>> Next: Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Real ID

Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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