The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have announced the extension of the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, shifting from the original date of October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023. Officials indicate the date change is due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has significantly impacted states' ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification cards, officials say, with many driver's licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity. DHS says it will publish an interim final rule soon to effectuate this enforcement date change.
"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."
Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association released a statement expressing that extending the REAL ID deadline is the right move, and the association is grateful to DHS for heeding the evidence and the calls from the travel industry.
"Getting to REAL ID compliance on time was already going to be a challenge before COVID shut down DMVs for extended periods," Emerson Barnes said. "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."
Need a REAL ID refresher? We've got you.
Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver's license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.
It's important to note that DHS says Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) issued by Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Vermont are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards and will be acceptable for official REAL ID purposes.
All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with REAL ID security standards and are issuing REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification cards. However, many state licensing agencies have extended the deadline for renewing expiring licenses due to a widespread shift to appointment-only scheduling protocols during the pandemic that has significantly limited states' capacity to issue REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification cards.
As a result, only 43% of all state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards are currently REAL ID-compliant. DHS states that they—along with various states—also need time to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, including changes that will streamline processing by allowing the electronic submission of certain documents.
For more information on REAL ID, visit DHS.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.