TSA reveals how Pennsylvanians will face secondary screening at airports

A Federal Register announcement on November 11th provides  insight into how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will treat travelers who present driver’s licenses from non-REAL ID compliant states, like Pennsylvania and seven others, beginning in January 2018. The 2005 REAL ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver’s licenses for identification purposes that do not meet standards set by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The REAL ID standards, published in 2008, aim to prevent terrorists and criminals from fraudulently obtaining a driver’s license under an assumed or fictitious identity.


But when enforcement begins at airports,
 how will TSA confirm the identity of travelers that have non-compliant licenses before allowing them to board?  Will TSA segregate those travelers from the general population of travelers? 

According to the announcement, travelers who present driver’s licenses from non-compliant states will be treated as presenting no IDs at all. 

We don’t know how that process would work, but it's likely the following will occur: A traveler presents a driver’s license from a state that is not compliant or does not have an extension to meet the REAL ID standards to a TSA officer at the screening checkpoint before entering the gate. The TSA officer refers the traveler to a separate screening area to complete the Certification of Identity form (Form 415) that  requires the traveler’s name and address and the affirmative declaration that the form is a true description of identity. After completing the form, the traveler is connected with TSA’s Identity Verification Call Center, which, using commercial and government databases, generates a series of questions to verify the individual’s identity, a process known as knowledge based authentication. Once the traveler’s identity is confirmed and matched to the boarding pass presented, the traveler will be able to pass through the screening checkpoint. 

This is a process that will need to be completed by  an estimated 8,000 Pennsylvanians per day just at Philadelphia International Airport. Not only will this severely impact travel time for state residents without alternate identification, such as U.S. passports, but the resources TSA must recommit to handling the new process will impact anyone boarding a flight in the state. 

REAL ID  enforcement is already occurring at all secure federal facilities and military installations that require identification for entry as bases across the country have announced that they are no longer accepting driver’s licenses from states that do not meet the standards. The beginning of enforcement has moved many states forward with implementation of the standards and commitments to comply to avoid being impacted. This year, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Illinois, Idaho, New Mexico and Massachusetts all enacted legislation that allowed their respective states to implement the REAL ID standards.

It's clear that the rest of the states are flying  forward with compliance and Pennsylvania's legislature is leaving its residents behind at the gate. But one legislator has offered a way out. Senator Kim Ward is proposing a repeal of a 2012 law that prohibits the state from complying with the REAL ID Act rules. The upcoming legislation will also require PENNDOT to apply to DHS for an extension to meet the standards and ultimately move the state into full compliance. The choice lies with the legislature.