Update: No federal announcement about new identification requirements for air travel

December 31, 2015

Starting January 10, 2016, standard Washington state driver licenses and ID cards may no longer be accepted as a standalone identity document at a limited number of secure federal facilities.

This change does not affect commercial airline travel. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicated they would announce when and how REAL ID enforcement would affect air travel at commercial airports by the end of 2015. DHS has not announced this information and has not provided updated information about when they plan to. While many media reports indicate this change will affect air travel in January, in April, or “sometime in 2016,” no information released from DHS supports these reports.

Even under REAL ID, most services provided by the federal government do not require identification to be presented, and that will not change. Washington residents who do not have a federally compliant document will still have access to federal courts, Social Security offices, federal health care facilities, national parks and other public benefits.

The Department of Licensing this week was provided further clarity from the federal General Services Administration, the agency that manages logistics at most federal facilities. They indicate that there are five federal facilities in Washington State that will be subject to REAL ID enforcement—requiring federally acceptable identification documents for entry into these facilities, or requiring secondary screening for persons that do not have a federally acceptable document. The facilities are:

  • U.S. Department of Justice – Seattle Immigration Court, 1000 2nd Ave.
  • Non-customer service federal offices in the 5th and Yesler Building, 300 5th, Seattle
  • Non-customer service areas of Seattle Federal Building, 1200 6th
  • Non-customer service areas of Spokane U.S. Courthouse, 920 W. Riverside Ave.
  • Non-customer service areas of Vancouver Federal Building, 500 W. 12th

However, according to the GSA, a facility security committee could adopt “alternative access control procedures” for these five facilities that would allow individuals to use a standard driver license to enter. It will become important to contact these types of secure federal facilities before visiting if you do not have one of the types of identification documents listed below:

  • Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Card
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Transportation worker identification credential (TWIC card)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card

This change on January 10 will not have significant impacts on most Washington residents. Washingtonians are encouraged to investigate all of their options for obtaining a federally acceptable ID document like a U.S. Passport/Passport Card, state Enhanced Driver License/ID card, or other ID documents that will be accepted by federal agencies to enter secure federal facilities.

REAL ID was passed by Congress in 2005 and has seen a number of implementation delays. Washington is among 24 states that have been operating with a REAL ID compliance extension because our regular driver licenses and ID cards do not meet all 41 different REAL ID requirements. In October, 2015, DHS denied our state’s request for another compliance extension which makes Washington state subject to the REAL ID enforcement schedule.

Over the past several years, Washington’s driver licenses and ID cards have met many of the REAL ID requirements (21 out of 41) by adopting national best practices for driver license and ID card security—done regardless of the REAL ID Act. Washington is one of five states that issue Enhanced Driver Licenses and ID cards, which are valid for federal purposes.