The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on December 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act (the Act), as passed by Congress, that will implement the Act in a measured, fair, and responsible way.
Secure driver's licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.
DHS is committed to enforcing the REAL ID Act in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and regulatory timeframes. It has been 16 years since the REAL ID Act was passed and half of all the states have already met the REAL ID minimum standards.
Description and Schedule of Enforcement Phases
The following enforcement measures are cumulative, with measures in each phase remaining in effect through successive phases. Each phase will begin with a 3-month period where agencies will provide notice to individuals attempting to use driver’s licenses or identification cards from noncompliant states but still allow access. After this period is over, agencies will no longer accept such identification for entry to federal facilities, and individuals will need to follow the agency’s alternate procedures (to be made available by the agency).
- Phase 1: Restricted areas (i.e., areas accessible by agency personnel, contractors, and their guests) for DHS’s Nebraska Avenue Complex (NAC) headquarters.
- Phase 2: Restricted areas for all federal facilities and nuclear power plants.
- Phase 3: Semi-restricted areas (i.e., areas available to the general public but subject to ID-based access control) for most federal facilities (subject to limitations described in the next section). Access to federal facilities will continue to be allowed for purposes of applying for or receiving federal benefits.
- Phase 4: Boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.
For more information on Facility Security Level, please see the Interagency Security Committee standard, Section Four.
The Act does not require individuals to present identification where it is not currently required to access a federal facility (such as to enter the public areas of the Smithsonian) nor does it prohibit an agency from accepting other forms of identity documents other than documents from non-compliant states (such as a U.S. passport or passport card).
The Act’s prohibitions do not affect other uses of driver’s licenses or identification cards – including licenses and cards from noncompliant states – unrelated to official purposes as defined in the Act.
For more information, please contact the REAL ID Program Office at REALID@dhs.gov.