REAL ID enforcement date postponed indefinitely due to coronavirus pandemic

March 24, 2020

Child at airportPresident Trump announced Monday that enforcement of the REAL ID Act has been postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic. This decision is expected to promote social distancing in the months ahead by reducing the number of people visiting driver licensing offices to obtain compliant identification.

Passed by Congress in 2005 in an effort to strengthen security standards after 9/11, the REAL ID Act had been scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, 2020. A new deadline has not been set.

When enforcement of the REAL ID Act begins, every air traveler 18 years of age or older will need a compliant form of ID in order to fly within the United States or access certain federal buildings, including military bases. There are many options.

Washington state issues two types of REAL ID-compliant documents: enhanced driver licenses (EDLs) and enhanced ID cards (EIDs). These can be obtained only by visiting a driver licensing service office. With the enforcement date pushed back, residents seeking an ID upgrade can rest a little easier and avoid our offices for a while.

Residents with standard driver licenses and IDs who will eventually want an enhanced version can renew online now and upgrade later for only the difference in cost ($4 per year).

About one-third of Americans have a REAL ID-compliant document, according to the Department of Homeland Security.


Upgrade or renew your driver license/ID now — or be prepared for a very long wait

February 20, 2020
Good and bad ID options

When the REAL ID law goes into effect Oct. 1, standard Washington driver licenses and standard IDs will no longer be accepted for air travel.

Been meaning to upgrade to an enhanced driver license or identification card? Hurry!

License or ID card set to expire in the next year? Renew now!

Don’t procrastinate.

Do. Not. Wait.

Because the longer you wait to address your licensing needs, the longer you can expect to wait in line.

How long? By late summer, it could be hours.

New federal ID requirements for air travel go into effect Oct. 1. Under the new law, known as the REAL ID Act, a standard Washington driver license or ID card will no longer be accepted for the purposes of domestic air travel or accessing federal facilities such as military bases.

Although residents can choose from many acceptable ID options, we expect a sharp increase in applications for enhanced driver licenses and enhanced ID cards. These REAL ID-compliant forms of identification can be obtained only by bringing the necessary documents to a licensing office.

That means we could be processing hundreds of thousands of last-minute transactions.

If you already have what you need to fly and just want to renew, you might be able to skip a trip and go online. Remember, you can renew up to a year before your license or ID expires; your renewal term will still begin when your current term ends.

If an office visit is unavoidable, you can see up-to-the-minute wait times before you go. Just click on your chosen location and check the right side of the page.

Wait times can vary greatly depending on the office, the day, and even the time of day. Some offices, especially along the I-5 corridor, can experience wait times 3-4 times longer than average. A little planning can save you a lot of time.

Best times to visit tend to be:

  • Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays
  • Weekday mornings

Busiest times tend to be:

  • Lunch time
  • The first day the office is open after a holiday
  • Weekdays after 3 p.m., when children are out of school

See more tips for visiting a licensing service office.


1 year left! Washington residents will need REAL ID-compliant identification to fly starting October 2020

October 1, 2019

ID laws for air travel are changing in 2020With the REAL ID enforcement deadline only a year away, officials with the Washington State Department of Licensing, Sea-Tac and Spokane international airports, and the Transportation Security Administration are urging Washington residents to act soon to ensure they will be ready to fly.

Starting Oct. 1, 2020, travelers 18 years and older will need a REAL ID-compliant form of identification to board a commercial flight.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. It enacted a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission that set minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. The legislation further barred federal agencies, including the TSA, from accepting state-issued driver licenses or ID cards that do not meet the minimum standards.

Now is the time to plan ahead and be ready for REAL ID requirements. Do not wait.

“We want Washington residents to be ready, and this is a reminder you have one year to look at your identity document options and determine which one best fits your lifestyle,” said Teresa Berntsen, DOL director. “You may already have the travel ID you need if you have one of many REAL ID-compliant documents, including Washington’s enhanced driver license or ID card. We strongly encourage our residents not to wait and get prepared now.”

Travelers can show any REAL ID-compliant identification at the TSA security checkpoint. TSA maintains a full list of acceptable forms of identification. A variety of identity documents will be accepted to board an airplane or enter secure federal facilities, including:

  • U.S. or foreign passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Military ID
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • Enhanced driver license
  • Tribal ID
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential

“TSA accepts more than driver licenses at the security checkpoint as a form of photo identification, so some travelers may already have an acceptable alternate form of ID,” said Deputy Federal Security Director for Washington Chris Baden. “With pending federal enforcement of REAL ID requirements, TSA encourages state residents to take a few minutes to decide what photo identification you plan to use for travel on Oct. 1, 2020 and beyond. A year from today, TSA officers will not be permitted to grant access to the security checkpoint unless the traveler has a REAL ID-compliant form of identification.”

Washington’s enhanced driver licenses (EDLs) and enhanced ID (EIDs) cards are REAL ID compliant, valid for air travel within the United States, and can be used to cross the borders of Canada and Mexico by land or sea. Some commonly needed documents to get an EDL/EID are certified birth certificate, U.S. passport, or military ID. A full list of document options to obtain an enhanced driver license or ID card is available on the DOL website.

Signs are posted at airports nationwide reminding the public that REAL ID enforcement is coming soon.

“Our priority is the customer experience for travelers at Sea-Tac Airport, but this is also about airports throughout the state of Washington and U.S.,” said Sea-Tac Airport Managing Director Lance Lyttle. “We are working together with DOL and TSA now to educate the public about REAL ID to ensure our passengers aren’t unpleasantly surprised in October next year.”

Demand for enhanced licenses and IDs will only increase as the deadline nears. By acting now to obtain the ID you need or to renew your license early, you can save yourself time and frustration later – both at DOL offices and at the airport.

“We are working closely with our partners at the Department of Licensing and TSA to make sure that Washington state residents are prepared for the full implementation of REAL ID as related to air travel,” said Larry Krauter, Spokane International Airport CEO. “We want to ensure a smooth transition over the next year so that we avoid serious disruptions to travel plans, particularly during the busy 2020 holiday travel season. Given our substantial growth, our screening checkpoints are challenged when everything is going well, and we want to avoid passengers being turned away at the checkpoints because they do not have a REAL ID-compliant license or other alternative like a U.S. passport.”

REAL ID is intended to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and ID cards while inhibiting the ability of terrorists and others to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.

More information and frequently asked questions about REAL ID can be found at the TSA website. Washington state residents can also learn more at the ID2020 website.


Media Advisory: REAL ID briefing Oct. 1 at Sea-Tac International Airport

September 30, 2019

DOL logoMedia Advisory—For Immediate Release

Sept. 27, 2019

Contact: Kate Hudson, Sea-Tac Airport, (206) 797-4362, Hudson.k@portseattle.org

Contact: Christine Anthony, DOL, (360) 902-3616, canthony@dol.wa.gov

ADVISORY: REAL ID enforcement starts in one year, and Sea-Tac International Airport, Department of Licensing, and Transportation Security Administration want to make sure Washington residents are ready

Representatives from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington State Department of Licensing, and the federal Transportation Security Administration will host a media briefing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, to talk about REAL ID enforcement one year away.

This will be an opportunity for media to ask questions about what residents need to know before REAL ID enforcement begins Oct. 1, 2020, and what action, if any, they need to take to make sure they have the documents they will need for air travel.

  • Date: 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1
  • Location: Sea-Tac International Airport breezeway in front of TSA Checkpoint 3 (between the American Airlines and Southwest Airlines ticket counters)
  • Speakers: Lance Lyttle, Managing Director, Aviation Division, Port of Seattle; Teresa Berntsen, Director, Department of Licensing; Chris Baden, Deputy Federal Security Director for Washington, Transportation Security Administration

Media Advisory: REAL ID briefing Sept. 30 at Spokane International Airport

September 26, 2019

DOL logoMedia Advisory—For Immediate Release

Sept. 26, 2019

Contact: Todd Woodard, Spokane International Airport, (509) 998-7265

Contact: Christine Anthony, DOL, (360) 902-3616, canthony@dol.wa.gov

ADVISORY: REAL ID enforcement starts in one year, and the Spokane International Airport, Department of Licensing, and Transportation Security Administration want to make sure Washington residents are ready

Representatives from the Spokane International Airport, Washington State Department of Licensing, and the federal Transportation Security Administration will host a media briefing at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30 to talk about REAL ID enforcement one year away.

This is an opportunity for media to ask questions about what residents need to know before REAL ID enforcement begins Oct. 1, 2020, and what action, if any, they must take to ensure they have the documents they will need for air travel.

  • Date: 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30
  • Location: Spokane International Airport. Meet near airline ticket counters, adjacent to ramp leading to the A/B security checkpoint.
  • Speakers: Larry Krauter, CEO, Spokane International Airport; Teresa Berntsen, Director, Department of Licensing; Lorie Dankers, Transportation Security Administration