Though state leaders began working toward compliance with the federal Real ID Act on Monday, Missouri residents still may not be able to board a plane with their standard issue driver’s license in 2018.
Whether residents’ driver’s licenses will be enough, hinges on if state officials will be granted an extension to a deadline they anticipate they will not meet.
Beginning Jan. 22, travelers will be required to provide Real ID-compliant identification, or other accepted identification, when traveling in all states. Missouri residents may catch a break from this rule if the Missouri Department of Revenue receives another extension prior to the deadline. If not, Missouri travelers will need to provide a passport for air travel.
The state started the process of becoming compliant with the federal Department of Homeland Security on Monday when the bill became effective, according to Michelle Gleba, director of communications for the state Department of Revenue. Gleba said in an email that the process is expected to take at least 18 months.
Meanwhile, passengers’ worries have already begun. Jeff Lea, spokesman for the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, said the airport has heard from passengers who were worried about whether they could fly with a current Missouri driver’s license.
“The airport is very hopeful that the state will receive an extension for Missouri state IDs so our residents and travelers can pass through security as they are now,” Lea said.
Columbia Regional Airport officials did not return requests for comment.
Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation in June that made Missouri compliant with the 2005 federal act. The act requires U.S. residents to obtain a Real ID-compliant license for access to federal facilities, military bases and air travel, unless they opt to obtain other forms of acceptable identification. Alternative forms of identification, approved by the Transportation Security Administration, include a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, U.S. military ID, permanent resident card or a border crossing card.
In a Facebook live video last week, Greitens assured viewers that they would be able to use their Missouri IDs to travel in 2018.
“You can fly in 2018 with a Missouri driver’s license, and for those of you who might have seen the signs in airports, saying that in 2018 you would no longer be able to use your Missouri driver’s license to fly, we have fixed that problem,” Greitens said in the video.
But Missouri has not received the waiver for travel in 2018.
Parker Briden, Greteins’ spokesman, said he is also confident about the looming January deadline.
“We’re confident that we’ll get waivers extended and that Missourians will be able to fly and won’t experience disruptions,” Briden said. “We’re doing everything in our power to comply with these rules to make sure Missourians don’t experience any disruption.”
The Department of Revenue began the process to submit an extension request to the Department of Homeland Security this week, Gleba said.
“We know of no state that is progressing toward compliance that has been denied a waiver extension when requested,” Gleba said in an email.
Missouri was one of the last states to participate in the act, and has received extensions for years, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The St. Louis Lambert International Airport will continue to have signs at TSA checkpoints that explain the January deadline for travelers. Lea said the process to reach compliance cannot be done before the deadline, so the airport is hopeful that Missouri will receive the extension it needs.
When asked about the possibility of Missouri not receiving an extension, Lea said the airport will cross that bridge when it reaches it.
“We’ll wait it out, and we’re hopeful that the process will work the way we think it’s going to go on behalf of all of our travelers,” Lea said.
The federal government currently requires people to provide Real ID-compliant licenses at military bases and federal facilities, unless a state has been given an extension, according to the Department of Homeland Security website. Missouri has an extension until Oct. 10 for nuclear power plants and federal facilities.
Gleba said Missouri residents should continue to request new licenses and license renewals as they would have previously. Once Missouri is fully compliant with the act, residents will need to apply for a Real ID-compliant license, or continue to use alternative forms of identification.
The Department of Revenue will continue to notify the public of any changes in the process, she said.