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SC residents can use non-REAL ID licenses on flights through Oct. 2018

WASHINGTON — The deadline is approaching for nine states that have yet to update state IDs in compliance with the REAL ID Act, which was passed in 2005, but South Carolina has been granted an extension to help residents to become REAL ID compliant.

The extension means South Carolina's current, unexpired driver's licenses and identification cards will continue to be accepted to board domestic flights, enter secure federal buildings and visit military posts through Oct. 10, 2018.

"South Carolinians can rest assured knowing their state-issued licenses and IDs are still accepted for federal activities that will eventually require a REAL ID," said South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles executive director Kevin Shwedo.

Meanwhile, the SCDMV is working to issue REAL ID licenses and IDs. The agency expects the new cards to be available to the public during the first three months of 2018. The state must be printing the new cards in order to be certified as fully compliant with the federal law.

Once South Carolina is certified complaint, residents will have until Sept. 30, 2020, to change their current license or ID to a REAL ID. Residents must have a REAL ID license or ID, valid U.S. passport, military ID or other federally approved identification to board a domestic flight, enter a secure federal building or visit a military installation.

REAL ID and the other states affected

Residents in 21 other states may have to present a valid U.S. passport or other identification -- instead of previously used driver’s licenses or IDs -- to travel within the U.S. and beyond.

Travelers who live in the following states could be affected:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina 
  • Washington

Residents of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands could also be affected, as could those from Virginia.

The REAL ID Act, which "set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, ... 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," according to the Department of Homeland Security. The act came after 9/11 as an effort to ensure safer travel within the U.S.

According to consumer expert Clark Howard, despite the fact that Congress passed the act more than 10 years ago, enforcement of the new regulations wasn't pushed until 2013.

Twenty-six states have provided residents with federally compliant driver’s licenses or IDs.

For those that have not, beginning Jan. 22, other forms of identification that will be accepted by Transportation Security Administration at airports for travelers living in the above listed states will be a permanent resident card/green card or a military ID. Other forms of acceptable identification are listed on the official TSA website.

Those who visit airports starting Jan. 22 without acceptable identification will not be allowed through airport security.

Some states have started working to provide residents with other forms of federally approved identification that would allow travelers to avoid ordering a passport for domestic travel, Forbes reported. For example, those in Washington have the option to apply for enhanced driver's licenses, which adhere to the REAL ID Act specifications but cost significantly more than regular IDs.

Travelers are encouraged to check with local government officials for any potential options.

Some of the states under review are scrambling to update state IDs to meet compliance standards in the next three months, and others have requested REAL ID compliance extensions from the Department of Homeland Security. Virginia residents have been granted an extension for REAL ID enforcement until Oct. 10, 2018. Budget shortages have delayed some states, including Oklahoma, from making the ID updates.

Despite all extensions, there is a hard deadline for states to require compliant REAL IDs: Oct. 1, 2020.

"There are no anticipated changes to the enforcement schedule, and we are tracking that by 2020, 15 years after this act has been passed, that DHS will require that all states are compliant with Real ID as per federal law," DHS spokeswoman Justine Whelan said, according to The Washington Post.

“It is a critically important 9/11 Commission recommendation that others have been willing to ignore, but I will not,” John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s former homeland security secretary and current chief of staff, said in June. “I will ensure it is implemented on schedule -- with no extension -- for states that are not taking it seriously.”

Those who live in one of the states that do not have TSA-compliant IDs may want to consider ordering a passport sooner rather than later. It generally takes four to six weeks to process passport orders, according to the Department of State.

Read more here and here.

There have been lots of confusion over deadlines and who really needs a real ID anyway.

South Carolina DMV spokeswoman Lauren Phillips said real ID is optional in South Carolina.

"If you feel like you will not be boarding a commercial flight, or visiting a federal facility, or going to a military installation, you do not need to do anything different with your driver's license," Phillips said.

You can also use a passport to fly, but in South Carolina, TSA will require one or the other by Oct. 10, 2018.

Phillips said most people will probably find it more convenient to get real ID rather than pay much more for a passport, or carry one around.

Phillips said you can bring your needed documents into any DMV branch now, and that could speed up the process once the new IDs become available.

"If you do that, it puts you in a better position to potentially be able to order your real ID driver's license online in 2018," Phillips said.

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