October 1, 2020, is the REAL ID deadline, and most people will not be able to board even a domestic air flight in the U.S. without either a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a passport.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) appears ready for the roll out — signs are showing up in airports, TSA officials are telling travelers personally about the upcoming deadline, and TSA press secretary, Jenny Burke, said “You’ll see a lot more in the future from us.”

While most states offer REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or will soon, not everyone with a driver’s license has one that is REAL ID-compliant, even in compliant states. To determine whether a driver’s license is a “REAL ID,” look for a star in the upper right-hand corner.

States are preparing for a “rush” – some hiring more DMV staffers and extending their hours of operation. The best way to avoid the expected lines and delays is to act sooner rather than later to get a compliant driver’s licenses, especially if you do not have a passport. As of 2018, about 42% of U.S. citizens held passports – a 15% growth rate since 2007.

In addition to REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses, other forms of acceptable identification include: passport cards, permanent resident cards, border crossing cards, DHS Trusted Traveler cards, federally recognized tribal-issued photo IDs, Canadian provincial driver’s licenses, and USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Cards (EADs). Children under 18 will not need to present identification as long as they are travelling with a companion who has acceptable identification. TSA agents will receive training to deal with special circumstances as necessary, but failure to provide one of the required identification documents could lead to more inspections, delays, and, possibly, the inability to board.

While some question whether TSA will really implement and possibly create chaotic scenes at airports just one month before the November 2020 presidential election, TSA said it is “moving forward as if implementation will occur.”

Jackson Lewis will continue to follow these developments. Travelers should be on the lookout for public service announcements and a publicity splash from TSA.