Missouri residents soon will not be able to use their state driver's licenses as identification to get into most federal facilities, making it one of at least five states to lose a federal exemption from complying with national proof-of-identity requirements.
A letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Missouri, obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, informs the state that its exemption from federal Real ID requirements, which set minimum security standards for licenses, will come to an end Jan. 10.
That means Missouri driver's licenses cannot be accepted as ID at military bases and most other federal facilities. It also could eventually mean that Missouri driver's licenses won't be accepted as identification for commercial airline flights.
Illinois is in the same boat, according to its secretary of state's office spokesman, David Druker. He said state officials learned late Tuesday that Homeland Security had denied an extension for compliance with federal requirements.
The 2005 Real ID act imposes tougher requirements for proof of legal U.S. residency in order for state driver's licenses to be valid for federal purposes. The law was passed in response to national security concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Homeland Security Department previously declared Minnesota to be noncompliant, and it sent letters in October to New Mexico and Washington indicating that their exemptions also would end Jan. 10.
States originally were supposed to comply with the Real ID requirements by the end of 2009. Federal authorities have repeatedly delayed implementation to give time for states to change their driver's license procedures and make the necessary technological improvements.
At one point, about half the state legislatures had passed measures opposing the implementation of the Real ID Act. Some state lawmakers raised concerns that it amounted to an invasion of privacy and a backdoor attempt to create a standardized national ID card.
Some of those states, including Missouri and Minnesota, still have laws specifically prohibiting them from complying.
But the patience of federal authorities appears to be coming to an end, and more states could lose their exemptions. Homeland Security also has been reviewing whether to grant a compliance exemption beyond Jan. 10 to Alaska, California, New Jersey and South Carolina.
Nineteen other states recently received an extension of their compliance exemptions, most running until Oct. 16.
The Homeland Security Department has said it plans to announce soon whether it will begin enforcing the Real ID requirements for airplane travel.
The department has said that it will provide at least 120-day notice before barring people from flights who have driver's licenses from states that are noncompliant or lack a waiver.
"As we continue the phased-in enforcement of the Real ID Act, the consequences of continued noncompliance will grow with each milestone," the department said in its letter to Missouri.