Several constituents have contacted me about the federal REAL ID program, which provides a set of uniform national standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards.
The federal government's REAL ID program was initiated after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The final program elements are scheduled to go into effect sometime in 2016. The new ID regulations apply to accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft for domestic flights. The latter is where I am getting the most questions from citizens and below is a quick summary.
Currently, a standard Minnesota driver’s license or ID card does not meet the federal REAL ID requirements. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates the Minnesota Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) and Enhanced Identification Card (EIC) do meet the REAL ID requirements for boarding domestic flights.
The Minnesota EDL/EIC cards already area available and were developed as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to facilitate citizens in border states to travel between the U.S., Canada and Mexico without the need to acquire a U.S. passport. EDLs/EICs cost an additional $15.
The EDL/EIC cards require additional levels of identification that provide proof of U.S. citizenship and are available only at the state driver’s license exam stations. In our area, the closest exam stations are located at Bemidji, Duluth, St. Cloud and Virginia, Minn.
This is a developing situation and I will pass along more information as things unfold. The Legislature may address this issue in the 2016 session. In the meantime, regardless of the state Legislature's action and/or Homeland Security's response to the request for an extension, Minnesota's EDLs/EISs will work even when the federal government flips the REAL ID switch.