Recent announcements about Minnesota’s timeline for implementing the federal Real ID Act have left some Minnesotans feeling relieved about their upcoming travel plans — and others simply confused.
Minnesota has lagged behind other states in following the 2005 federal law, which requires states to meet a minimum security standard for driver’s licenses or ID cards. The Legislature approved a Real ID bill this year, and the state is now preparing to offer the new Real ID, likely starting in October 2018. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted Minnesota an extension through then to get ready, but the state will ask for another two years to give all residents a chance to get new licenses.
This all matters because the federal government is starting to require people to have a Real ID-compliant license to board commercial flights and visit military bases, nuclear plants and federal buildings. Minnesota’s extension means residents can do all those things with their regular license at least through October 2018.
As the state and federal governments work out what happens beyond that date, Minnesotans have a few options. Residents can pay an extra $15 and submit to additional screening to get an enhanced driver’s license. Those, along with passports, will continue to be accepted at the airport regardless of any delays with Real ID licenses.
Once Real ID is available, Minnesotans can still opt to hang on to their regular license or enhanced license but should know an enhanced license is not the same as a Real ID, and a regular license will eventually pose problems at the airport and federal facilities.