a mockup of a digital drivers license on an iPhone and Apple Watch

Airports are beginning to accept digital driver’s licenses at TSA checkpoints.

From Southwest to United, most airlines allow you to travel with a digital version of your boarding pass. And now, some states are letting residents clear airport security with a digital version of their driver’s license too. Rather than root through your bag, all you have to do is flash your Apple Wallet on your iPhone or Apple Watch.

“The addition of driver’s licenses and state IDs to Apple Wallet is an important step in our vision of replacing the physical wallet with a secure and easy-to-use mobile wallet,” Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, said in a statement in 2021.

It’s not quite a universal game-changer yet: While 12 states have committed to digital IDs, only three have officially started accepting them. And while the airport you depart from might accept a license on your Apple Watch, you might not be extended the same courtesy on the return trip.

Read more: Homeland Security Postpones Deadline for Real ID at Airports

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 becomes 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 on travel, check out the eleven things that should be on everyone’s travel checklist and the difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.

How do I add my driver’s license to my Apple Wallet?

Apple WalletApple Wallet

To add a ID to your Apple Wallet, tap the “plus” button at the top of the screen.

Dan Avery/CNET

Apple built the technology to upload your ID to your Apple Wallet into iOS 15 for the iPhone. The process is similar to how you would add a new credit card.

First, tap the “plus” button at the top of the screen in Wallet. (If you have an Apple Watch paired to your iPhone, it will ask you about adding your license there, as well.)

You’ll then scan your physical driver’s license with your iPhone’s camera and take a selfie, “which will be securely provided to the issuing state for verification,” according to Apple.

You’ll also be asked to complete a series of face and head movements “as an additional security step.”

Once your ID has been verified by the state that issued it, it will be added to your Wallet.

To be able to add your license or ID to Apple Wallet, it will need to be issued from a participating state. In addition, you’ll 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 turned on
  • Your device region set to the US

Driver's License program in Apple WalletDriver's License program in Apple Wallet

For now, only residents of Arizona, Colorado and Maryland can upload their licenses.

Dan Avery/CNET

Also, only passengers with TSA PreCheck on their boarding pass are eligible to flash digital licenses, according to the TSA website, though the agency said it 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 ID?

Apple initially announced in 2021 that eight states were participating in the program, then bumped the number to 12 this year.

But those are states committed to accepting Apple Wallet IDs, not that currently do.

Right now, only Arizona, Colorado and Maryland support the digital identification feature — and only at select security checkpoints at these airports:

  • Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall 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, though specific timetables have not been announced.

Other states are expected to join this roster: Last year Bailey said Apple was “already in discussions with many more states.” 

And in November, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles said it was “exploring” the digital ID option. 

“There is a proviso that created a study committee on the idea and they are still undergoing research,” spokeswoman Maranda Williams told The State, a Columbia, South Carolina, news outlet.

Separate from Apple’s efforts, some states allow residents to upload their driver’s licenses to their phones through state-operated apps, like Louisiana’s LA Wallet. But these are for driving and age verification purposes and are not accepted by TSA yet.

TSA screen on an iPhoneTSA screen on an iPhone

How do I use a license stored in my Apple Wallet at TSA?

To present your digital ID, tap your iPhone or Apple Watch on the identity reader at the security checkpoint. 

You’ll then be prompted to authenticate your identification with Face ID or Touch ID.

If it’s successful, a checkmark should appear on the screen.

According to Apple, “you don’t need to unlock, show or hand over your device [to a TSA agent].” 

Is this technology secure?

According to Apple, it is.

The company says the program uses the same privacy and security features already in the iPhone and Apple Watch to prevent tampering and theft.

“Your driver’s license or state ID data is encrypted,” reads a statement on the Apple Support website. “Neither the state issuing authority nor Apple can see when and where you use your license or ID, and biometric authentication using Face ID and Touch ID helps make sure that only you can view and use your license or ID.”

The TSA has also endorsed digital IDs.

“Digital identity has the ability to strengthen airport security and enhance the passenger experience by reducing touchpoints, providing greater privacy, and verifying IDs more accurately,” the agency said in a statement.

My state accepts digital IDs. Do I still need my physical license at the airport?

Yes. The program is still in its infancy, and there’s no guarantee the checkpoint you use will be set up to accept a driver’s license on your Apple Wallet.

“All passengers must continue to have readily available their physical driver’s license,” according to the Transportation Security Administration website. “The TSA officer may require this physical ID in addition to the digital ID.”

Where else can I use my digital ID?

With the rollout of 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-share service Turo were cited 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 make use of the feature in the future.

Digital IDs are not currently accepted by police or departments of motor vehicles. 

I have an Android phone. Can I upload my ID to Google Wallet?

In a December 2022 system update, Google announced it was beta testing allowing 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 “selected US state(s),” it didn’t indicate which ones or when.

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