Passport to fly domestically? What Washington residents need to know

SEATTLE, Wash. — For years, Washington residents have expressed confusion over whether their driver’s licenses will get them through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in the near future.

The concerns stem from a complicated federal law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to bring better security at airports, and Washington state is still working to get into compliance. So what does this mean for residents?

Simply, read the first five answers to learn exactly what you need to get on a plane. Click here to read about what the REAL ID act requires and how Washington is working toward a fix.

1. I’m a Washington resident with a Washington state license, what do I need to get on a domestic flight right now? 

Just your driver’s license, either standard or enhanced.

2. What do I need to get on a domestic flight in 2018 and 2019? 

Again, just your driver’s license, either standard or enhanced.

3. When do rules change? 

Enforcement for the new law starts in 2020, according to the Washington State Department of Licensing.

After enforcement starts in 2020, the state's standard licenses will not be accepted by TSA.

>> Read more: Why the rules change here. 

However, TSA will accept Washington’s enhanced driver’s licenses (EDL). Many residents in state already have these.

>> Read more: If you need an EDL, here's how to apply.

If you’re not interested in an enhanced license you, you can still board with other documentation — such as a passport, passport cards for domestic flights, a permanent resident card or military ID.

Scroll down to keep reading. 

How to prepare yourself for the change:


4. Will people be turned away after October 2020?

People using a standard licenses without additional documentation will not be allowed to pass TSA. Enhanced driver's licenses will be permitted to enter.

>> Read more: What kind of IDs the TSA will accept here

5. Are you sure something doesn't something change in 2018?

Here's what will be new this year: Standard licenses issued after July will be marked to indicate they are not REAL ID compliant and not acceptable for certain federal purposes.

But, according to the DOL, even with that new mark, standard IDs will be an acceptable form of ID for domestic travel until enforcement begins in Oct. 2020.

So, what is the deal with REAL ID? 

Congress passed the REAL ID act in 2005 in an effort to strengthen identification rules at airports. The 9/11 Commission recommended it to the federal government to set standards for how source of IDs – such as driver’s licenses – are issued.




The act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses. Under the law, state driver's licenses and ID cards have to be issued only to people who can prove they are legally living in the United States.

>> Read more: Here’s what required under the REAL ID act

If state licenses don’t meet the standards, then federal agencies – such as the TSA – will not accept them.

Why does this matter now? 

The Department of Homeland Security will start enforcing the law in October 2020, but they have given a series of deadlines to states to get in compliance.

I thought enforcement started in 2018? 

Washington state has been given extensions multiple times to get into compliance. The latest deadline is October 2018 to get into compliance. States that have been granted an extension will not be subject to REAL ID enforcement at airports or federal facilities until October 2020, according to DHS.

The Washington Department of Licensing expects to be in full compliance with the REAL ID act by fall 2018.

Why is it taking Washington so long to get in compliance?  

There are a few reasons.

1. Washington state offers two IDs: a standard ID, which does not require proof of residency, and an enhanced ID, which does require residency.

2. REAL ID is a mandate for federal agencies, and participation by states is voluntary, not required.

3. Also, Washington state had a law that prevented lawmakers from getting compliant with federal regulations. But an agreement made in the legislature in 2017 – and then signed by Gov. Jay Insee – overturned that law.

How is the state resolving this? 

Inslee signed a new bill in April 2017 for a two-tier licensing system in attempt to get in compliance. This bill is under review with DHS.

>> Read more: Washington Senate approves REAL ID compliance bill

Some state lawmakers believe the new law doesn’t go far enough to require proof of legal presence and others argue the licenses could lead to discrimination.

What does the two-tier system mean?

Under the new two-tier system, standard licenses will be marked as non-compliant in July 2018. The state and its residents will rely on enhanced licenses.

>> Read more: Washington's two-tier system explained in detail

Basically, the solution in Washington is that people will have to choose which form of identification they want.




So after October 2020, will Washington licenses alone get me on a plane? 

Standard licenses: no. 
Enhanced licenses: yes.

More extensively: Washington's standard driver's licenses are not in line with federal requirements. This is because Washington does not require proof of legal presence in the United States to get a standard state driver's license or ID.

>> Read more: How is Washington state fixing its out-of-compliance standard licenses? 

The state offers, but it does not mandate, TSA-approved enhanced driver’s licenses. These enhanced licenses require proof of U.S. citizenship.

Residents can choose which identifications they prefer. If you don’t want an enhanced driver’s license, you can use your standard license to get through TSA – just make sure to have another form of identification.

Eventually, Washington residents who only have standard licenses will need additional ID – like a passport, permanent resident card or military ID – in order to board a domestic commercial aircraft.

Didn't Washington get a new standard license this year? 

Washington state rolled out new standard licenses last year that included security enhancements to protect against identity theft. It's still not in compliance with the REAL ID act.

>> Read more: New standard WA driver's licenses still won't get you through airport security after changes




How much is an enhanced license? 

A standard ID costs $54 for six years, and an enhanced card is $78 for six years.

>> If you need an EDL, here's how to apply.

Are more people getting enhanced driver’s licenses because of this? 

From 2015 to 2016, there was a 56 percent increase in people getting enhanced driver’s licenses. But DOL issued 305,368 people standard licenses in 2016, while DOL 122,541 people received enhanced licenses.

As 2017 progresses, more people are still getting standard licenses than enhanced licenses. The DOL told KIRO 7 News it’s going to soon begin a public information campaign to explain the difference between the two licenses.

How to prepare yourself for the change:


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