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You Soon Won't Be Able To Fly Domestic Without REAL ID

Florida Driver License REAL ID sample.

It's been more than a decade since Congress passed the REAL ID Act. It is based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, which set standards for issuing sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards."

The DHS has phased in compliance over the past ten years or so since the REAL ID Act took effect nationwide in May of 2008. The final piece is enforcement for domestic commercial airline passengers.

The deadline to have that in hand, especially if you want to get onto a plane is Oct. 1, 2020.

Now, you might be thinking, "Don't I already have REAL ID?" There's an easy answer to that. If you have a Florida driver's license and there's a white star in a gold circle in the upper right hand corner, you do. If there's not, then you don't. The authentication marks are different, depending on which state issues the identification. For example, in California, it's a golden bear with a star on its haunches.

Amber Bradley with the Pinellas County Tax Collector's Office said a lot of Floridians have gotten the message.

"The state is around 90-95% compliant, so we've done a really good job here of getting this information out and requiring our customers to get compliant now instead of waiting until the last minute," she said.

Florida was among the first states to implement the program in 2010.

Roger Dow is President and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. "We predict on the first day, (October 1, 2020), if things don't change, some 80,000 people will be stopped from getting on a plane. And can you imagine the chaos when they try to explain that they're trying to go to their relative's event or whatever, they're going to hold up the line something fierce, so it's a big, big problem," he said.

Dow said 1.5 million Floridians don't have REAL ID.

He said his organization is trying to spread the word about this requirement, through frequent flyer programs, hotel front desks and other travel organizations, because, he said, "Ninety-nine million Americans do not have this, so if you can imagine, 99 million Americans trying to scramble to get through the DMV, it's going to be close to impossible once we start getting into next fall."

And according to a study by Longwoods International, which U.S. Travel Association commissioned, when those tens of thousands of would-be travelers are turned away at airports for not having the proper identification, the U.S. economy could lose an estimated $40.3 million dollars in travel-related spending.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a list of FAQ's related to REAL ID. You can find it here.

And although it's a federal program, local authorities are working to make sure everyone gets on board. For more information, call or visit the website of your county tax collector's office.

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