A federal bill spurred by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on targets in the United States will soon be going into effect in California, and it will mean changes for anyone over the age of 18 looking to fly domestically.
The impending change is traced back all the way to May 11, 2005, when President George W. Bush signed House Resolution 1268, titled the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief.”
The bill, a majority of which was devoted to appropriating funding to the above-named objectives, also included an additional section regarding the “REAL ID Act,” which was appended to the funding bill.
The act introduced a number of federal requirements for state-issued identification cards, including drivers’ licenses and state ID cards used to access federally regulated commercial aircraft, nuclear power plants and certain other federal facilities where identification is required to enter. Without identification meeting those guidelines, the act bars anyone entering those facilities or aircraft.
According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, the impetus behind the bill was a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, which, in its final report, explained that some of the men responsible for the attack had obtained some forms of U.S. identification fraudulently.
The commission recommended that the federal government set standards for drivers’ licenses, among other forms of identification, stating, “At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.”
Originally, the REAL ID Act was scheduled to go in effect no later than three years after its passage, but states were allowed a number of extensions of the deadline in order to implement the changes.
The DHS website says 28 states and territories are currently issuing REAL ID compliant identification cards, while the remaining states and territories – including California – have until Jan. 22 to start issuing REAL ID cards.
While the new cards will be issued starting Jan. 22, the California Department of Motor Vehicles explains on its website that travelers will not have to present a REAL ID card to board a commercial flight until Oct. 1, 2020.
The first suite of changes to state IDs address the identification cards themselves, with minimum requirements such as the person’s full legal name, date of birth, and gender; the driver’s license or ID card number; a digital photograph of the person; the address of the person’s principle residence; the person’s signature; security features meant to prevent tampering, counterfeiting and other fraud; and a common machine-readable technology.
Current holders of state-issued ID cards will note that their cards already contain most, if not all, of those features; however, there are also minimum requirements a state must meet in order to issue a REAL ID card to an applicant.
According to the REAL ID Act, before a state can issue the new IDs, an applicant must provide proof of identity, such as a U.S. birth certificate or passport, proof of a valid Social Security Number, a document verifying residency in California – such as a rental agreement or utility bill – and a document showing a change of name, if applicable.
In addition, the law requires an applicant to provide evidence that he or she is a citizen of the United States, or that he or she holds one of a number of immigration statuses, from being an alien lawfully admitted for permanent or temporary status to having a pending application for asylum in the country.
Jessica Gonzalez, assistant deputy director of the California DMV’s Office of Public Affairs/Media Relations, told the Siskiyou Daily News on Tuesday that the state simply needs to begin issuing REAL ID cards in order to comply with the new requirements; namely, applicants will need to meet the more stringent proof of ID requirements.
She noted that the new IDs will also feature a bear and star mark in the upper right corner to denote that it is REAL ID compliant.
Those hoping to continue taking domestic flights after the 2020 deadline must obtain a REAL ID card from the state, which Gonzalez noted costs $35 for a driver’s license and $30 for a state ID.
Those who have an up-to-date U.S. passport or military ID can use those instead of a REAL ID to pass Transportation and Security Administration checkpoints at airports and to access other federal facilities, according to the DMV. Federal facilities that do not require identification for entrance – such as one’s local post office – will not require the use of a REAL ID. In addition, the DMV notes that those under the age of 18 will not have to have a REAL ID to fly.
In addition to the ID requirements, the REAL ID Act also implemented other changes, including a requirement that a state refuse to issue a driver’s license or ID card to anyone holding a license in another state unless that person shows evidence that they are terminating that license.
The act also requires states to maintain a database that contains all data printed on drivers’ licenses and ID cards issued in a state, and motor vehicle drivers’ histories, including violations, suspensions, and points on licenses, and to make those databases electronically accessible to all other states.
That provision has sparked bipartisan controversy since the bill was introduced, prompting one Republican lawmaker to introduce a bill in 2017 that would drop a requirement that states archive proof of ID documents for years, and allow states to opt out of linking their databases to all other states.
While the bill has had no noted action since it was sent to a committee on Jan. 31, 2017, its author – Representative Mark Sanford (R–South Carolina) – noted in a press release at the time that he has long had concerns about the bill’s data archiving requirements.
“I continue this fight now because the REAL ID Act is an unfunded mandate that essentially creates a de facto national database, which threatens personal privacy and violates state sovereignty,” he stated in a 2017 press release.