TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Indulgence is waning between the federal government and states, including Oklahoma, that are not compliant with the Real ID Act of 2005.
Oklahoma and other states were given an extension to meet Real ID regulations for driving licenses and state-issued IDs. The new deadline is Jan. 22, 2018, but Oklahoma is asking the deadline be moved to 2020. Though state participation is "voluntary," fewer federal entities will accept non-compliant IDs as deadlines pass, creating problems for residents of non-participating states.
Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia are compliant with the act; Minnesota, Missouri and Washington are not. All other states, including Oklahoma, are under extensions. While Oklahoma travelers may still board flights with their licenses, some federal agencies - including military installations - will begin refusing Oklahoma licenses on Oct. 10.
Oklahoma's situation is complicated by Senate Bill 464, passed in 2007 by the state Legislature with no opposition and signed into law by then-Gov. Brad Henry. It prohibits Oklahoma from complying with Real ID standards. The law sailed through the chambers because lawmakers were concerned about the expense and thought the federal government was overreaching. They were also concerned that Real ID licenses might be demanded for more than just boarding aircraft of entering federal buildings.
Attempts were made during the 2016 legislative session to get the law repealed, but none succeeded. The state is now waiting to hear if Washington will grant the further extension. An answer is expected by Oct. 10.
Though Oklahoma driver's licenses do not meet federal Real ID guidelines, identification cards issued by the Cherokee Nation have been compliant for years.
Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state for the tribe, said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lists federally recognized, tribal-issued photo IDs, which include the Nation's, as acceptable forms of ID for Transportation Security Administration travel.
"Fortunately, the Cherokee Nation was at the forefront of tribes issuing photo ID citizenship cards to its citizens starting in 2012," Hoskin said. "So far, more than 82,000 of our tribal citizens have been issued a Cherokee Nation photo ID citizenship card, and we expect that number to rise by 2018, when the Real ID Act will start being enforced, so Cherokee citizens will have another option to use as a source of ID when traveling."
The photo tribal citizenship cards replaced the old "blue cards" once issued by the Nation. They include the citizen's photo and signature, the signature of the principal chief, and a hologram. Recipients may also have their Certificate Degree of Indian Blood cards on the backs of their tribal IDs.
Oklahoma's non-compliance and the looming deadline are giving new life to the "passport to fly" rumor, which suggests that those carrying licenses that are not Real ID-compliant will need passports to board aircraft.
The Department of Homeland Security states that a "driver's license or identification card from a noncompliant state may only be used in conjunction with an acceptable second form of ID for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft." Children under 18 are exempt. It is not explained what is "acceptable," but the Department of State lists examples as Social Security cards, credit cards, library cards and employee IDs, and presenting as many as possible. Listed among the TSA's accepted IDs are the U.S. passport, and passport card.
To dodge the potential headaches of non-compliance and carrying multiple forms of ID, some Oklahomans are purchasing the U.S. passport card. The card is less expensive than a passport and intended for non-air travel between the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The passport card is not valid for travel to Cuba, the French West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and Barbados.
Though actually meant for crossing the border or going on a cruise, the passport card will get its carrier aboard a domestic flight. It costs $30, plus a $25 execution fee. A passport is $110, along with the added $25 fee. Passport and passport card applications are available in the office of the Cherokee County Clerk. Processing takes four to six weeks.
Those who arrive at the airport without any valid ID can still be allowed to board, but the traveler must complete a form with name and current address, and possibly answer questions to confirm identity. Once identity is confirmed, further screening still may be demanded. The TSA recommends arriving at least two hours before flight departure to clear screening and board.