The REAL ID Act of 2005
, Pub.L. 109–13, 119 Stat. 302, enacted May 11, 2005, is an Act of Congress that modifies U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication
, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver
's licenses and identity documents, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.
The law sets forth requirements for state driver's licenses and ID cards
to be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes", as defined by the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security has currently defined "official purposes" as boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants, although the law gives the Secretary the unlimited authority
to require a "federal identification" for any other purposes.
The REAL ID Act implements the following:
- Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver's licenses and non-driver identification cards.
- Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
- Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.
- Introducing rules covering "delivery bonds" (similar to bail, but for aliens who have been released pending hearings).
- Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorism.
- Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders.
On December 20, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced that implementation of Phase
1 would begin on January 20, 2014, which followed a yearlong period of "deferred
enforcement". There are four planned phases, three of which apply to areas that affect relatively few U.S. citizens—e.g., DHS headquarters
, nuclear power plants, and restricted and semi-restricted federal facilities
. The timeline
for Phase 4, which applies to boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, will be determined after DHS conducts an evaluation of how the first three phases were implemented. To "ensure that the public has ample advanced [sic] notice", DHS says that Phase 4 will not be implemented before January 1, 2016. On January 8, 2016, DHS issued a revised implementation schedule
for Phase 4, stating that starting January 22, 2018 "passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant
with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight
". Starting October 1, 2020 "every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel." As of December 2016, 26 states and territories have been certified as sufficiently compliant or making sufficient progress
toward compliance, 21 have been granted extensions, 1 is under review, and 8 have not been certified as sufficiently compliant or received extensions.