In 2016, the standard New York State driver’s license won’t be considered valid identification for boarding a domestic flight. The bad news is, this is technically true. The good news is, you won’t necessarily have to lug your passport around with you on a flight to Chicago, though you may have to brave the DMV for a new driver’s license.
Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security launched a REAL ID Act back in 2005 that mandates states require proof of citizenship or residency to obtain driver’s licenses in order to board domestic flights. Five states—New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and American Samoa—are considered “non-compliant” with that security mandate, so starting at some point soon, you may have to use a different government-issued ID to fly, though the DHS says our licenses are valid “at least until 2016.”
An official with the Department of Motor Vehicles assured us that our licenses won’t be rendered ineffective for plane travel at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day. “We have submitted a request for an extension to the REAL ID Act and our discussions with the Department of Homeland Security have been very productive,” the DMV said in a statement. “We have no reason to believe that any New Yorker will have a problem using their current state-issued ID card to get on a plane come January 2016.”
The DMV says they expect DHS will give drivers ample notice before changing federal regulations on them, but if you’re a U.S. citizen and are getting your license renewed soon, you may want to opt for an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL). That license, which costs an extra $30, complies with the REAL ID Act and is also valid identification if you’re traveling in and out of Canada and Mexico by land or sea. Again, only U.S. citizens can obtain an EDL—otherwise, you’ll have to carry your passport with you anytime you fly when the regulations become law.