Airline travelers at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, walk to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint prior to traveling on November 26, 2014
Paul Richards—AFP/Getty Images

If the Department of Homeland Security gets what it wants.

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.
December 28, 2015

Residents of a handful of states may soon need to remember their passport before they head to the airport, even when flying domestically.

That’s because the Transportation Security Administration is getting closer to enforcing a decade-old federal law demanding that states comply with various federal standards when issuing driver’s licenses and The New York Times reports that residents in a few non-compliant states may not be able to use their driver’s licenses pass through airport security lines as soon as next year.

While the Department of Homeland Security (which includes the TSA) has approved some states’ proof of identity standards, while granting extensions to others, the Times reports that Minnesota, New Mexico, and Washington are among the states that could soon see their state-issued driver’s licenses turned away at U.S. airports, which would mean that residents would have to supply another form of government-approved identification before they board a plane.

The TSA has been slowly moving toward enforcing federal standards on state driver’s licenses for some time after Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 as a counterterrorism measure meant to cut down on identity theft. While the federal government cannot force states to comply with its standards for issuing driver’s licenses, it can squeeze state lawmakers by requiring compliant state I.D.’s at federal facilities like military bases (which it started doing earlier this year) as well as at commercial airports.

The federal government argues that the Real ID Act will help ensure a more reliable standard of personal identification, but, as the Times notes, some states are still opposed to the federal standards, which would eventually lead to a national database containing information on travelers.

As of yet, there is no exact timeline on when in 2016 the TSA would start enforcing the federal law, but the agency’s recently intensified push for compliance among all states comes at a time when concerns over travel security are heightened in the wake of recent terror attacks in the U.S. and abroad. Earlier this month, the TSA updated its rules on full-body scans in airport security screenings, allowing its agents to deny travelers’ requests to opt out of the scans.

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