Department of Homeland Security Says Illinois Drivers’ Licenses Not Sufficiently Secure



·        The federal security agency, whose personnel scrutinize American fliers when they board aircraft, has told the office of the Illinois Secretary of State that the familiar Illinois drivers’ license will not provide enough data for their personnel to allow passengers to pass through airport security.  Starting January 1, 2016, persons boarding aircraft will be required to present a passport (http://abc7chicago.com/travel/il-drivers-license-not-enough-to-fly-in-2016-/513496/) or some equivalent form of approved documentation, such as military ID, in order to be allowed to proceed to a boarding area. 

The federal DHS says that the drivers’ licenses of 22 states have achieved compliance with the standards set in the Real ID Act, enacted by Congress in 2005.  A key mandate of the Real ID Act is that citizens seeking documentation considered secure under the Act must present a birth certificate or equivalent proof of citizenship in order to obtain the document.  The Illinois Secretary of State’s Driver Services Department (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/drivers/home.html) does not require presentation of a birth certificate to apply for a drivers’ license, nor does it have a system in place to verify this document if an applicant presents it.  The office estimates that compliance with the Real ID Act, as currently enforced by the federal security police, would cost $100 million to $150 million in one-time costs to be borne by Illinois drivers or taxpayers. 

Seven states, not including Illinois, have explicitly refused to comply with the REAL ID Act.  Twenty-one other states, including Illinois, have asked for and been granted a compliance extension that will expire on December 31, 2015.  It is possible that this issue may be taken up by Congress this year in response to concerns raised by these twenty-eight states.     

Federal passports, issued by the federal Department of State, will continue to be approved documentation for boarding flights originating in or landing in the U.S.  It often takes several months to get a passport.  Persons interested in applying for a first-time passport can start the process at this State Department website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html.