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Montana ID

Montana’s driver's licenses and identification cards will not be in compliance with the federal Real ID Act, effective 2018.

Officials with the Department of Justice are urging residents to continually check the department's website for current information regarding Real ID compliant identification.

Terry Davis, western regional manager of the Department of Justice / Driver Licensing Bureau, said by visiting, residents can stay updated.

Davis explained that the Real ID Act was developed because the federal government "wanted all states' IDs to be able to protect identity."

The act was passed in 2005, according to the website.

Initially, the act was viewed as "controversial" in Montana. "There was now a federal database with private information on it," Davis said.

State legislatures enacted a law in 2007, Davis said, that would not comply with the federal act, making it one of few to do so.

Since then, Davis said that Montana's practices have already been compliant, but the state has worked toward the federal compliance.

"The public's opinion has changed about Real ID," Davis said, adding that Montana residents appear to be "less afraid" of it, and "want it."

Currently, there is a waiver that the state has applied for not to issue the compliant identification. As of the last legislative session, which adjourned in April, Davis said lawmakers made the move toward compliance by passing SB 366, authorizing Montana to issue Real ID compliant credentials.

There is a waiver in place, Davis said, from the federal government that is valid through October 2017 where state-issued identification will be accepted for flying on a plane or to gain entrance in a federal building.

The website states that the Department of Homeland Security granted Montana the extension and has indicated that additional extensions will be granted only if the state continues its commitment "to achieving full compliance and making substantial and documented progress" of the Real ID Act.

"If Montana was to become compliant, the driver's license wouldn't work to get on a local flight in the (United States)" or into a federal building, she said.

Travelers with a Montana driver license or identification card will need another form of identification, beginning Oct. 1, 2020, according to the website, as extensions will no longer be granted.

Davis said that Real ID is anticipated to be fully functioning by January 2019.

"In order to do that, we have to apply for another extension from Homeland Security" to get beyond the January 2018 extension, which is "up to the Federal Government."

Should the extension not be granted, Davis said that means Montana driver's licenses would not be acceptable forms of identification. Residents would need federal forms of identification, such as a passport.

The website states that the move toward issuing compliant identification would be "as soon as possible."

One thing that residents are finding confusing is the difference between Real ID and enhanced driver's licenses.

"Enhanced (identification cards) have a computer chip in them," Davis explained, adding that "very, very few states" issue them.