The United States Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced that the DHS was extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from Oct. 1, 2021, until May 3, 2023, because of the impact of COVID-19 on the enforcement.
The news means that most Americans who want to travel domestically on an airplane without a passport or enhanced driver’s license will be able to do so until at least May 2023.
After that, every air traveler 18-years or older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, a state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or a passport in order to get through TSA security checkpoints for domestic travel.
According to the DHS, the pandemic “significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity.”
“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.”
The REAL ID comes from legislation passed by Congress in 2005 aimed to unify security standards for the IDs across states.
Tuesday’s announcement is also not the first time the deadline has been pushed back. In fact, this is also not the first pandemic-induced delay in implementation—in March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, the DHS pushed in back indefinitely because of COVID-19, eventually landing on Oct. 1, 2020, and then pushing it back again a full year to Oct. 1, 2021.
In a statement reacting to the news, U.S. Travel Association EVP of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes called the delay “the right move.”
“Extending the REAL ID deadline is the right move, and we’re grateful to DHS for heeding the evidence and the calls from our industry. Getting to REAL ID compliance on time was already going to be a challenge before COVID shut down DMVs for extended periods. Significant travel disruption was likely if the deadline were allowed to hit, which the U.S. economy can’t afford after a $500 billion decline in travel spending last year and millions of travel jobs lost to the pandemic.”