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REAL ID and Employee Verification
What the REAL ID is and how it relates to your small business

If your employees regularly enter federal buildings or use air travel, you’ll need to make sure that they’re carrying up-to-date REAL ID cards — otherwise, they’ll be turned away from security checkpoints. Here’s what you need to know to determine whether your employees need to obtain REAL IDs, when they should do so and whether or not you can use REAL IDs to verify their I-9 eligibility.

What is a REAL ID?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the REAL ID originated with the REAL ID Act, which Congress passed back in 2005 based on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation. This legislation gave the federal government permission to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

When will the government enforce REAL IDs?

October 1, 2021 is the enforcement date for REAL ID, as the DHS confirms. While the REAL ID is not required, employees will need to obtain one if they plan on flying domestically, purchasing firearms and ammunition or setting foot on a military base or federal facility after this date.

If a person doesn’t have a REAL ID and needs to travel via plane, they’ll have to show TSA an alternative acceptable document such as a passport, passport card or state-issued Enhanced Driver’s License. If an employee doesn’t have a REAL ID or one of these alternative acceptable documents, TSA has the right to prohibit them from passing through security and boarding the flight. Head to the DHS website, for more information about the REAL ID and to browse the list of TSA Acceptable Documents.

How do employees get a REAL ID?

If some of your staff travel frequently for work, encourage them to obtain a REAL ID. This will prevent any delays or sabotaged travel plans for your business, which can result in a loss of time and money.  

To obtain a REAL ID, the employee will need to check out their state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out what documents to bring with them when they visit their local DMV office in person. According to the DHS, the minimum documentation they’ll need must prove the following: social security number, date of birth, full legal name, lawful status and two proofs of address of principal residence.

Can REAL ID be used to verify employees’ I-9 eligibility?

Some have suggested that because REAL ID requires two forms of documentation, it’s a valid List A document that your business can use for I-9 purposes. Per Jennifer Jacobus PHRca, SHRM-CP, SDEA Director of HR Services, you won’t be able to use the REAL ID in this way. However, an employee can use the REAL ID as an acceptable List B document for employee verification. 

Even though you can’t use an employee’s REAL ID as a List A document, it’s still a useful item for them to obtain. By encouraging staff members who travel frequently to obtain a REAL ID sometime before October 1, 2021, you’re one step closer to ensuring that future work trips are smooth and successful.


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