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REAL ID Act Fact Sheet and MA Compliance

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commissions recommendation that the federal government set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as drivers licenses as part of a broader national security policy to combat terrorism. Eighteen of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks held over 30 valid drivers licenses and ID cards issued by five states. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) first published REAL ID standards in January of 2008. The REAL ID Act sets minimum security standards for states to authenticate the source documents applicants use to obtain government-issued drivers licenses and identification cards, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting these forms of identification for official purposes (i.e., accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, or boarding commercial aircraft) unless DHS determines the state issuing these documents meets the minimum standards. According to its website (, DHS had received packages and status updates from 34 states as of December 18, 2012. Massachusetts was not one of them. In 2009, Massachusetts was compliant with only 10 out of the 18 material compliance benchmarks associated with REAL ID, and since then the Commonwealth has made little progress in meeting the standards established by the Act. In August of 2012, Massachusetts was identified by DHS as one of 16 states that were expected to not be materially compliant with the REAL ID standards by January 15, 2013. As of February 25, 2013, DHS has determined that 19 states currently meet the REAL ID Acts requirements Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming while other states are making progress towards reaching these benchmarks. Beginning January 15, 2013, DHS began issuing temporary deferments to states that are not yet in compliance, allowing federal agencies to continue to accept licenses and ID cards issued by these states for official purposes, such as boarding commercial aircraft. DHS has already twice modified the statutory deadline to give states more time to come into compliance with the REAL ID Act. DHS expects to publish a schedule for the implementation and phased enforcement of the REAL ID Act by early fall 2013. States that continue to provide information and show progress will be betterpositioned to receive additional deferments, if necessary. Once the initial deferment period begun on January 15, 2013 expires, federal agencies may be prohibited from accepting drivers licenses and identification cards issued by states like Massachusetts that fail to submit information to DHS demonstrating progress in meeting the REAL ID Acts standards.