Charlie Funk
Charlie Funk

It was a simpler time. There were more than a few instances back in the day when I would arrive at Houston's Hobby Airport five minutes before the scheduled pushback, and yet I would make the flight with ease.

Granted, I sometimes had the last seat in the last row, but I was on the flight. If the ticket you held showed the right flight number and date, you flew.

And it didn't just apply to airlines.

We could assure a client that a driver's license or other photo ID and a voter registration card were all that was needed to take a cruise. At the time, one had to prove citizenship to get a voter registration card, so with these two documents the client was home free.

It was still necessary to have a passport to fly to a foreign cruise departure port, but that was a rarity, as the majority of our cruise sales involved the Caribbean and South Florida homeports.

My, how things have changed! And they continue to change even as I write this.

We went from needing nothing to prove identity for air travel to presenting a government-issued photo ID, generally a driver's license. Security concerns following 9/11 gave rise to the need for an enhanced form of identification and the Real ID Act of 2005.

Everything I can find about the Real ID Act clearly states that the intent is not to create some massive national database that links us all together. Invasion of privacy and the potential for hackers to compromise such a database are enough reasons to argue that this is a bad idea.

While a passport will continue to be sufficient for air travel, some travelers, perhaps many, are reticent to carry their passport with them on every domestic flight.

So what is needed to get one of these enhanced ID cards?

Documentation varies from one state to another, so it depends on where your clients live. Sherrie and I accumulated what we believed to be adequate documentation to obtain a Real ID in Tennessee and sallied forth to test the process.

We quickly discovered we needed tax and payment information specific to our domicile that we did not have with us.

Fast-forward a couple of days, and we showed up again at 1:30 p.m., confident that we would be in and out in a matter of minutes.

Wrong.

There were 18 others ahead of us. Careful observation of how long it was taking to process each applicant suggested we would be there for the next three hours. And that, despite the fact we had all the correct information and papers, according to the prescreener.

What I expected would be some perfunctory check of supplied information instead involved a full-blown data submission and analysis for each of us. The examiner proclaimed -- almost surprised -- "You passed!"

And to the many who will inevitably wonder why we would go through this when our valid passports would suffice, we have every reason to believe that Real ID has far-reaching import beyond air travel. I don't pretend to have a clue what these other uses might be, but I have every confidence they will manifest themselves at some point.

It's like this: Your clients are going to need Real ID. Maybe not right now, but absolutely by Oct. 1, 2020 (when a Real ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification will be required for air travel). If the process is so backed up now, do your clients a favor and encourage them to apply now instead of waiting until the last minute.

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