If You Live in These Nine States, You'll Want to Apply for a Passport Before December

Your driver's license will no longer cut it.

Female TSA agent at desk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Update, September 22, 2017: If you live in any of the nine states that have driver's licenses that aren't compliant with the REAL ID federal security requirements, you'll want to start your passport application process long before the January 22, 2018 deadline arrives.

In fact, the next two months are the ideal time for applying for a passport. According to the U.S. Department of State, October and November have the least amount of passport applications. Plus, if you apply then, you're more likely to get your passport back earlier in the estimated return window, which is typically 4-6 weeks.

Original, 12/21/2016: If you're one of the many people venturing to the airport to visit family over the holidays, you'll likely notice some new signs while you wait in the endless security line. This week, the Transportation Security Administration is putting up notices at airports telling people who live in nine U.S. states to get a new ID, stat.

If you live in Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, or Washington, your driver's license doesn't meet new federal security requirements. That means that when you go to the airport, even if you're traveling within the United States, you have to use an alternative form of identification, like a passport, military ID, or permanent resident card. This new policy goes into effect on January 22, 2018, so you have some time to figure this out.

According to Travel & Leisure, the REAL ID Act was passed more than a decade ago to crack down on security when it comes to identification cards. States must verify the identity of every ID applicant, plus add new features like anti-counterfeiting technology and give background checks to DMV workers who give out driver's licenses.

Right now, only 24 states and the District of Columbia follow the REAL ID standards, and others have been given extensions through 2017. State legislatures are working on laws to make sure their IDs are up to par, but it may be a rocky process. The Department of Homeland Security will continue working with states and may grant extensions, and they'll update airport signs if anything changes. But until then, it can't hurt to get a passport next year just in case. If you want to check the status of IDs in your state, check out the DHS's website here.

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Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.