In 2005 the United States Congress and the Bush administration enacted the REAL ID Act in response to the events of 9/11. The Act modified federal law regarding security, authentication, and issuance procedure standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards. In 2008 the Arizona legislature passed a bill prohibiting the state from complying with the Real ID Act (A.R.S. §28-336).

Passport needed for travel

The Act and Arizona law have had little impact on residents of Arizona due to Homeland Securities’ delayed implementation of the Act. The federal government established four phases of implementation of the Act.  The first phase began in 2014.  The final phase, full enforcement, is expected to being on January 1, 2016. This means that any person who attempts to present their Arizona driver’s license for “official purposes,” including to board a commercially operated flight, will be turned away by Homeland Security.

If you plan to fly after December 31, 2015, you better make sure you have your passport ready.

NOTE: Legislation was passed and signed at the very end of Arizona’s 2015 legislative session which attempts to comply with the 2016 Federal ID standards for travel, but the new law would require an unlikely waiver from participating in the REAL ID program to be granted by DHS. An ADOT spokesman says the public will be updated when his agency plans to start issuing these new state IDs and whether or not they will actually allow Arizonans to board a commercial flight without using a passport.

Laura M. Trujillo