Alaska holiday travelers beware: Temporary IDs prompt more TSA screening

Holiday travelers take note: If you're flying with the temporary Alaska driver's license or identification card you were handed at the DMV while waiting for the permanent one to arrive in the mail, expect the Transportation Security Administration to give you a little more attention at airport security.

Alaska's temporary IDs -- made out of paper and given to Alaskans in a plastic bag at the DMV -- prompt additional screening measures at airport security checkpoints.

That's because paper IDs are considered much easier to tamper with than a permanent ID, TSA regional spokesperson Lorie Dankers said. Nationwide, TSA does not considered them a primary form of identification.

"It's not unique to Alaska," Dankers said of the additional screening. "It's more because of the way the state issues the driver's licenses, it's a more regular occurrence."

When a traveler arrives at airport security, they are asked to provide ID and their boarding pass. If you hand the TSA a temporary ID, you'll be asked for another form of ID -- a credit card, or Costco card, for example.

After that comes "additional screening," Dankers said.

Citing security concerns, Dankers wouldn't specify what that additional screening looks like, but this reporter underwent a full-body pat-down and had her carry-on luggage thoroughly searched before an in-state flight. On both the departure and return flight, the procedure was the same.


In June 2014, the Alaska DMV joined about 30 other states that issue licenses through a centralized system based in Indiana. Now, temporary paper IDs are provided while applicants wait for their permanent IDs to come in the mail. Division of Motor Vehicles Director Amy Erickson said receiving the permanent ID should take about 10 days.

Erickson said that in her correspondence with TSA leading up to the change, "there weren't any issues at that time." She is quoted in a 2014 KTOO article as having gone through airport security without any additional screening procedures.

"TSA changed their mind about the (temporary IDs) sort of midstream, and it came from the national organization," Erickson said. "I was surprised by that, because so many states are issuing temporaries."

In January 2015, Erickson said she began getting complaints from Alaskans about airport security measures. When Erickson reached out to TSA again, the agency told her it was national policy that temporary IDs don't make the cut as primary identification, Erickson said.

For its part, the TSA says its policy toward temporary IDs has been in place for several years. On its website, the TSA lists primary forms of ID, but the agency has no official list of what a secondary ID may be, Dankers said.

Even if someone shows up to the airport without an ID, "we have ways to verify someone's identity," Dankers said, which include verification through public databases, according to TSA's website.

The DMV now has a warning to travelers on its homepage and FAQ section, which also notes that the temporary IDs may not work to gain entry to federal buildings, on military bases or for financial transactions.

"I think people should always carry more than one ID," Erickson said, adding that she uses her passport at the airport.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.