***UPDATED May 1st, 2016: I was just notified by a observant friend that the below information is no longer timely, and that until January 22nd, 2018, residents from ANY state are still able to use a driver’s license, or any of the various other forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration, to get through security and onto an airplane. After that point, American Samoa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington will no longer be compliant unless their state gets an extension. By October 1, 2020, 27 other states will no longer be compliant. Read the updated information from the Department of Homeland security here as well as here!!!***
Did you know that right now, according to the latest statistics, only about 4 in 10 Americans actually has a passport? That’s right, only 40% of the people in the United States have a passport, and it’s bizarrely low compared to the rest of the world. It demonstrates how few Americans actually travel abroad, in comparison to the other countries in Europe and Asia, for example. Those numbers are drastically going to change, because a lot of US citizens are going to be forced to get passports by the end of 2016!
Why will they be forced to get passports you ask? Word is rapidly spreading in the traveling community: By October 10, 2016, if you are from one of these nine U.S. states and territories you will no longer be able to use a driver’s license to get through airport security and TSA in order to board your plane. You’ll actually need a verified and valid U.S. passport! That’s because of a little known law passed back in 2013 requiring states driver’s licenses and ID cards to be compliant with machine-read/chip technology. This is for all international and domestic air travel!
The following U.S. states and territories are going to be affected, so beware if you are a frequent flyer from one of them:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
- Washington State
- Rhode Island
- Puerto Rico
- The U.S. Virgin Islands
Just so you can verify that this is actually happening and not just some rumor on the internet I picked up, here’s the official Department of Homeland Security announcement about it.
Why are they doing this? Of course it would seem to be about just protecting American’s from people who would use false identification to board a plane. But in my mind the answer is much more complicated than that. It’s not just terrorists and insurgents that the U.S. government is trying to keep from traveling, but potentially anyone with a fake identification: sex-trade workers, illegal immigrants, etc. It’s a technological safety move that will force a lot of different types of people who are here in the U.S. illegally to not be able to travel by plane.
Also, and this is pure speculation, but there is a huge monetary incentive for the U.S. government to require citizens to get passports. Assuming that there are about 323 million Americans, and that the average passport costs about $110, if even another 25% of Americans sign up for a passport (i.e. want to fly each year into and out of those 9 states above), that’s about $8,882,500,000, or almost another $9 billion dollars!
Either way, I’m sure there will be some sort of grace period or warning period for passengers. Otherwise, I can’t see how the TSA could piss off tens or hundreds of thousands of people that might fly into California, New Jersey, Illinois, etc but then not let them fly out on their return/departing flight, just because they didn’t know about this new rule, without causing a major aviation PR disaster. But you never know!
Better start renewing or applying for those passports! So says The Traveling Bachelor…I’m planning to hit at least 10 more countries this year alone, if all goes well! Won’t you join me? 🙂