Thousands of visitors from American Samoa could have difficulty traveling within the United States, including Hawaii, when the Department of Homeland Security decides to enforce all aspects of the Real ID Act.

American Samoa isn’t in compliance with the act, which was passed in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The law set tougher federal standards for proof of legal U.S. residency to apply for driver’s licenses.

To comply with the law, people applying for driver’s licenses must show proof of “legal presence,” for instance, by showing a passport or birth certificate, as well as other documents.

The data on the IDs must also be in a common, machine-readable format. And, each state and territory must also agree to share its database of licensed drivers with all others.

Hawaiian Airlines. 22 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Hawaiian Airlines provides the only portal to the United States for most American Samoa residents. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Critics say it creates privacy violations because personal information can be shared more easily to national databases.

It’s possible that later this year, driver’s licenses from states or territories that are non-compliant might not be enough to get through a TSA checkpoint. The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of scheduling plans to implement the portion of the law that applies to airports.

Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the TSA, said there would be a 120-day grace period before the federal government would start enforcing the law at airports. This would give the public notice before any changes are made that might affect their traveling.

American Samoa is not compliant with the Real ID Act and, unlike many states, hasn’t gotten a time extension from the federal government.

Approximately 2,273 visitors from American Samoa traveled through Hawaii in 2014, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

A bi-weekly Hawaiian Airlines flight through Honolulu is the only way for most American Samoa residents to enter the U.S.

States and territories were supposed to comply with the Real ID Act by 2009, but many have been granted an extension to upgrade to the federal standards. In fact, so far only 23 states are considered compliant. Hawaii became compliant in 2013.

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