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What Planners Need to Know About Real IDs

May 3 marks the one-year countdown to a major change in what airport security will accept for identification.

It’s been 17 years since Congress passed the Real ID Act to establish minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and prohibit some federal agencies—including the Transportation Security Administration—from accepting non-compliant licenses as identification. While enforcement has been postponed, the latest deadline seems likely to stick: If you want to use your license as identification at a U.S. airport after May 3, 2023, it will need to be a Real ID.

What does this have to do with meetings? In April 2021, Department of Homeland Security said only 43 percent of driver’s licenses were Real IDs. At that time, DHS extended full enforcement of the rule from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances around the Covid pandemic that included a slowdown in license renewals because of a shift to appointment-only scheduling at Department of Motor Vehicles locations.

Even if the percentage of Real ID licenses had jumped since last year and even if your attendee demographic is likely to have a higher compliance rate, there’s still a strong chance that some attendees will not have upgraded their ID by next May.

While it isn’t a planner’s responsibility to set this straight, including information in registration materials might be just the heads-up that attendees need to ensure they can board the plane to your event. You can also answer a few key questions in the process:

How do I know if my license is a Real ID? If there’s a star in the upper right-hand corner of the license, it’s a Real ID.

Can I use a passport for identification rather than a Real ID license? Yes. Also, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont are acceptable alternatives. Most EDLs do not contain a star marking, however.

If I participate in TSA Precheck or other expedited security programs, do I need a Real ID? Yes, or other accepted identification.

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