If you’re making any travel plans for later this year, ignore the rumors on social media that you need a passport to jet down to Florida. For now, you can still use your Maine driver’s license to board domestic flights.
The federal government last October granted Maine a one-year exemption from compliance with Real ID, a decade-old federal law regulating state-issued identification.
With the exemption in place until Oct. 10, Maine driver’s licenses also will continue to be accepted as valid identification for entrance into certain federal facilities, such as military bases, the U.S. Mint and nuclear power plants.
Starting Jan. 22, travelers who want to board domestic flights must present compliant identification or an accepted alternative, such as a U.S. passport or passport card.
But as the federal government takes its last steps toward implementing Real ID, confusion over Maine’s status under the law has spread on social media.
One viral Facebook post from Almost Fearless, which bills itself as a travel and adventure magazine for parents, warns that residents of Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Washington state will need a passport to board domestic flights starting Jan. 22.
But that’s not the case.
“Many people are seeing outdated or inaccurate information online, particularly via social media sites, so we want to remind everyone that this waiver is in place,” Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
Confusion is no surprise, given Maine has largely resisted pressure from the federal government to comply with Real ID until the past year.
Maine is among 23 states plus the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories that are not compliant with the Real ID Act but have been granted additional time to comply with the law, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with implementing the law.
Real ID emerged in 2005 among a slew of legislation to address national security concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and it was one of the key recommendations in the 9/11 Commission Report.
The Real ID Act set national standards to improve the security of state-issued identification to prevent undocumented immigrants and terrorists from obtaining U.S. driver’s licenses. Several of the 9/11 hijackers had obtained state-issued driver’s licenses in the months leading up to the attacks.
But many states balked at what they saw as federal overreach. And the Maine Legislature in 2007 passed a law prohibiting the state from complying with Real ID amid concerns that it would create a de facto “internal passport.”
But the state reconsidered its position after Oct. 11, 2016, when Homeland Security denied the state’s request for another exemption from compliance because a federal review found that “Maine has not committed to meeting all remaining requirements and has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance,” according to a letter to the Maine secretary of state’s office from Alan Bersin and Philip McNamara, both assistant secretaries at the agency at the time.
Bersin and McNamara wrote in their letter that Maine could get a new extension if it demonstrates it is taking steps to get in line with unmet provisions of the law.
Since then, Homeland Security has granted Maine additional time to comply with Real ID.
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