COVID’s lingering impact prompts Real ID deadline extension

The deadline for obtaining the Real ID needed to board a domestic flight has been pushed back again, with the Department of Homeland Security citing the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the slower-than-expected rollout.

The deadline to have a Real ID had been May 3, 2023, but DHS announced Monday that it was pushed back two years, to May 7, 2025.

“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a news release. “DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.”

People are getting compliant IDs as they renew driver’s licenses, but DHS said the pandemic resulted in backlogs at state driver’s license offices. Because of the backlogs, many state agencies that issue driver’s licenses automatically extended expiration dates on licenses and ID cards, rather than issuing licenses and cards compliant with the Real ID requirement.

After the May 2025 deadline, domestic travelers 18 and older on commercial flights must have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or state photo ID identification card. Real ID also will be required to enter some federal facilities such as military bases.

The Real ID law was passed by Congress in 2005 on a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission. The new form of ID incorporates anti-counterfeiting technology and uses documentary evidence and record checks to ensure a person is who they claim to be.

Enforcement has been delayed several times since the original 2008 deadline. Most recently, in April 2021, DHS extended the deadline to May 2023, also citing how COVID-19 made it harder for states to issue new licenses.

A DHS spokeswoman said Tuesday that about 52% of state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards were considered Real ID-compliant. That’s up from 43% in April 2021.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia and four of the five U.S. territories covered by the Real ID Act are issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards. DHS said American Samoa is under review for Real ID enforcement.

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