From Southwest to United, most airlines allow you to travel with a digital version of your boarding pass. And now, some states are also letting residents pass through airport security with a digital version of their driver’s license. Instead of searching your pocket, all you have to do is flash your Apple Wallet on yours iPhone or Apple watch.
“Adding driver’s licenses and state IDs to Apple Wallet is an important step in our vision to replace the physical wallet with a secure and easy-to-use mobile wallet,” said Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet in a statement in 2021 .
It’s not a universal game changer just yet: while 12 states have committed to digital IDs, only three have started to officially accept them. And while the airport you’re departing from might accept a license on your Apple Watch, you might not be accorded the same courtesy on the return journey.
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The Transportation Security Administration is already supporting the technology at select airport security checkpoints. So it’s really a question of when, not if the option will become standard nationwide.
Here’s what you need to know about putting your driver’s license in your Apple Wallet, including how to do it and which states recognize digital IDs. For more information on travel, see the eleven things that should be on every travel checklist and the difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
How do I add my driver’s license to my Apple Wallet?
Apple developed the technology to upload your ID to your Apple Wallet in iOS 15 for iPhone. The process is similar to adding a new credit card.
First, tap the Plus button at the top of the screen in Wallet. (If you have an Apple Watch paired with your iPhone, you will also be asked there if you want to add your license.)
You then scan your physical driver’s license with your iPhone’s camera and take a selfie “which will be made available securely to the issuing state for verification,” Apple says.
They will also be asked to perform a series of facial and head movements “as an extra safety step”.
Once your ID has been verified by the state that issued it, it will be added to your wallet.
In order to add your license or ID to Apple Wallet, it must be issued by a participating state. You will also need:
- An iPhone 8 or later, or an Apple Watch Series 4 or later with the latest version of iOS or WatchOS
- Face ID or Touch ID turned on
- An Apple ID with two-factor authentication enabled
- Your device region is set to the United States
Also only passengers with TSA PreCheck on their boarding pass are eligible to flash digital licenses, according to the TSA website, although the agency plans to add the option for other passengers in the future.
Only one license or ID can be added to an iPhone and paired Apple Watch at a time.
Which airports accept digital IDs?
Apple initially announced in 2021 that eight states would participate in the program, increasing the number to 12 this year.
But these are states involved Accepting Apple Wallet IDs currently does not.
Currently, only Arizona, Colorado, and Maryland support the digital identifier – and only at select security checkpoints at these airports:
- Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
- Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah have all agreed to support the initiative, as has Puerto Rico, although no specific timelines have been announced.
More states are expected to join that list: Last year, Bailey said Apple was “already in talks with many more states.”
And in November, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles said it was “investigating” the digital ID option.
“There’s a caveat that a study committee created for the idea, and they’re still in research,” spokeswoman Maranda Williams told The State, a news outlet based in Columbia, South Carolina.
Aside from Apple’s efforts, some states are allowing residents to upload their driver’s licenses to their phones through state-run apps like Louisiana’s LA Wallet. However, these are for driving and age verification purposes and are not yet accepted by the TSA.
How do I use a license stored in my Apple Wallet with TSA?
To present your digital ID, hold your iPhone or Apple Watch up to the identity reader at security.
You will then be prompted to authenticate your identification with Face ID or Touch ID.
If it is successful, a tick should appear on the screen.
According to Apple, “You don’t have to unlock, show, or hand over your device [to a TSA agent].”
Is this technology safe?
According to Apple, that’s how it is.
The company says the program uses the same privacy and security features already present in the iPhone and Apple Watch to prevent tampering and theft.
“Your driver’s license or state ID information is encrypted,” reads a statement on Apple’s support site. “Neither the state issuing authority nor Apple can see when and where you use your license or ID, and biometric authentication with Face ID and Touch ID helps ensure that only you can see and use your license or ID.”
The TSA has also supported digital IDs.
“Digital identity has the ability to strengthen airport security and enhance the passenger experience by reducing touchpoints, providing greater privacy and more accurate ID verification,” the agency said in a statement.
My state accepts digital IDs. Do I still need my physical driving license at the airport?
Yes. The program is in its infancy, and there’s no guarantee that the checkpoint you’re using is set up to accept a driver’s license on your Apple Wallet.
“All passengers must continue to have their physical driver’s license handy,” the Transportation Security Administration website said. “The TSA officer may request this physical ID in addition to the digital ID.”
Where else can I use my digital ID?
With the Introducing iOS 16 In June, apps that require age or identity verification should now be able to accept ID cards stored in your Apple Wallet app, Apple said. Uber Eats and car-sharing service Turo have been named as two apps that could potentially offer this functionality, according to MacRumors, but neither has officially done so.
Apple added that retailers, restaurants and other venues will use the feature in the future.
Digital IDs are not currently accepted by the police or road traffic authorities.
I have an android phone. Can I upload my ID to Google Wallet?
In a December 2022 system update, Google announced that it was in a beta test that would allow Android phone users to upload their driver’s licenses to Google Wallet “for convenient, private, and secure presentation.”
Google said the feature would be available in “select US states,” but didn’t specify which or when.