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Missouri license offices and agencies that issue photo ID cards have started upgrading equipment to comply with federal legislation requiring a REAL ID from citizens to board commercial aircraft and enter federal facilities.

The name “REAL ID” comes from the REAL ID Act of 2005, a federal law focused on fraud protection, anti-terrorism, and driver's license (license) and non-driver identification card (ID card) security.

“Basically, it's a federal mandate that's coming down,” said Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre. “The whole idea behind it is they want a picture of you that is the same quality that you get on your passport so that their facial recognition software will work.”

Henderson explained the facial recognition software is used to thwart terrorism.

“When it comes down to it, it's about terrorism and making sure we can use our facial recognition software when you're boarding airplanes, going onto military bases, entering courthouses ... to make them safer,” explained Henderson. “If you have a little inconvenience to make us safer, that's not necessarily a bad thing.”

The legislation was passed in 2005 and was set to take effect on Jan. 28, 2018, but some states, including Missouri, were not prepared for the deadline. The mandate was delayed for two years to allow for compliance and the new effective date is Oct. 1, 2020.

Rep. Dale Wright, R-Farmington, said the federal mandate came about, in part, to address the inconsistencies of various ID cards across the 50 states.

“How it got started is, after 9/11, there was a 9/11 Commission that was created and they went through things trying to determine what we could do to make our citizens safer,” said Wright. “And so they came up with what's called the REAL ID Act.

“It was established to set minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards,” Wright said. “It was to set up just a standard where all states would be doing the same thing which would be easier to monitor.”

On March 25, the Missouri Department of Revenue began offering REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and ID cards, the final step for Missouri to satisfy the act's requirements and regulations.

“The state kind of held out at first and the idea behind the state holding out at the beginning was we were kind of infringing on people's rights forcing them to have a certain kind of picture,” said Henderson. “So what we finally got to in the State of Missouri is, you're not actually forced to get a [REAL ID-Compliant card].

“But, we're going to the REAL ID at this point because if we don't, then Missourians aren't going to be able to get on airplanes [or enter federal facilities],” Henderson explained. “So, it kind of comes down to the fact that you have to do what you have to do to keep people safe.”

Under Missouri law, applying for a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card is optional. Those wishing to apply for REAL ID-compliant identification should notify the person helping them at the start of the transaction, as some issuers are not yet offering the REAL ID-compliant cards. A Missouri-issued license or ID card that is noncompliant with REAL ID will provide the same access as a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card until the act’s 2020 effective date, with one exception.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) recently finalized an update to its DOD-wide installation security policy and is in the process of no longer accepting licenses and ID cards marked as being non-compliant with REAL ID across all of its facilities and installations.

This policy change impacts DOD installations in all states, not just Missouri. Anyone planning to visit a military base should contact the base in advance to obtain information regarding identification requirements.

After October 2020, residents of every U.S. state and territory will be required to present a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card, or another form of ID accepted by the Transportation Security Administration, such as a passport, to board federally-regulated domestic flights. Individuals will also be required to present a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card or another form of acceptable ID to access federal facilities, including military bases and federal courthouses, and to enter nuclear power plants.

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