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My wife has an Arkansas driver's License, though it's not one of the new REAL ID licenses.

The DHS says:

Starting January 22, 2018, passengers who have driver's licenses issued by a state that is not yet compliant with REAL ID and that has not received an extension will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel. Please see TSA's website for a list of acceptable forms of identification. Passengers who have licenses issued by a state that is compliant or that has an extension to become compliant with REAL ID requirements may continue to use their licenses as usual. For a list of states already in compliance or with an extension visit DHS's REAL ID webpage. DHS continually updates this list as more states come into compliance or obtain extensions.

The TSA says:

Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel.

  • Driver's licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)

...

(and then links back to the DHS site).

Which one of these do I believe? The TSA doesn't list anything else besides a passport - she doesn't currently have one, so does that mean that we need to either get an updated REAL ID driver's license, or a passport? Or is a current Arkansas driver's license valid for travel?

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From the DHS page you linked, under "What do I need to do if...?":

Fifty-five out of fifty-six states and territories are currently compliant with REAL ID or non-compliant with an extension. The residents from these states and territories may continue using their driver’s licenses or identification cards, regardless of whether the license/ID is REAL ID compliant or not, for accessing Federal facilities (including military bases), entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft. The February 5, 2018, enforcement date only applies currently to the residents of American Samoa.

Starting October 1, 2020, every state and territory resident will need to present a REAL ID compliant license/ID, or another acceptable form of identification, for accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft. This is what we call “card-based” enforcement. The card, itself, must be REAL ID compliant unless the resident is using an alternative acceptable document such as a passport.

As shown on this map, Arkansas is compliant, so all Arkansas licenses, including pre-REAL ID ones, will be accepted until October 1, 2020. You won't need an updated license until then.

See also my answer to Do Californians need a REAL ID by October 2018 or 2020? for further details about the relevant regulations.

  • Or boarding an airplane... apparently someone at DHS needs to fix that ;) – Wayne Werner Apr 2 '18 at 13:06
  • "The card, itself, must be REAL ID compliant unless the resident is using an alternative acceptable document such as a passport." This is a bizarre statement on their part because if you're using a passport then you don't even need an additional ID, right? It's already REAL ID-compliant... – Mehrdad Jun 17 '18 at 11:15
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    Yes, it's oddly worded. Though I wouldn't say that a passport is "REAL ID-compliant" because the REAL ID law doesn't regulate passports at all; it only sets standards for when the federal government may accept state-issued IDs. But yes, a passport is acceptable ID all by itself. – Nate Eldredge Jun 17 '18 at 14:05

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