PORTLAND, Ore. -- For now, your Oregon driver's license will get you through an airport security checkpoint.
But that could change in the future due to something called the Real ID Act, passed by Congress back in 2005 as part of a series of post-September 11 security reforms.
When that change will happen is not known yet, but it could possibly be several years before you need to get your driver's license updated.
Here's where the issue stands and what we can verify:
Toward the end of the legislative session last week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill directing the Oregon DMV to create a new kind of driver’s license with enhanced security features.
The new license will bring Oregon into compliance with a federal law that requires enhanced identification to board a commercial flight. Without the updated licenses, Oregonians who only have the current version of an Oregon driver’s license soon run the risk of being turned away at airport security checkpoints.
The new forms of identification and the reasons behind it have created a confusing situation for passengers who simply want to get through security without any hassle. Slow compliance with the federal law and a patchwork of exemptions further complicate things.
Here’s the bottom line for airline passengers: you can show up at an airport security checkpoint and get through with your current Oregon driver’s license. But at some point in the future, that won’t be the case. And it’s not entirely clear when things will change.
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 as part of a series of post-September 11 security reforms. The goal was to improve the accuracy of state-issued identification documents, such as driver’s licenses.
The law said anyone wishing to board a commercial flight or enter a federal facility will need a Real ID-compliant piece of identification. That could be a passport, passport card or enhanced license.
But in the 12 years since the Real ID Act passed, states have been slow to implement the reforms. As of today, only half of states issue Real ID-compliant identification documents. The other half – including Oregon and Washington – rely on a series of exemptions from the Department of Homeland Security that allow their residents to board commercial flights with non-compliant identification.
Oregon’s most recent extension runs until October 10, 2017. That means that, theoretically, your current Oregon driver’s license wouldn’t be accepted at airports after October 10. But in practice, the Oregon DMV thinks that isn’t likely to happen.
“Their practice has been to grant extensions to states that are on a path to compliance,” explained DMV spokesman David House. “We don’t expect any issues.”
House said the Oregon DMV expects the feds will continue to grant exemptions to Oregon until the state’s new enhanced license program comes online in 2020. He said the new law requiring the DMV to create enhanced licenses shows they’re serious about compliance and bolsters their case for continued exemptions.
“Homeland security doesn’t want to put states in a position where 300 million people have to rush to the DMV in one day,” House said.
Assuming the exemptions continue, Oregonians wouldn’t have to get enhanced licenses until 2020, House said.