Real ID Deadline Extended Until 2023

The federal initiative, which has been postponed numerous times, will require U.S. travelers to present compliant identification or a passport before boarding a domestic flight. 

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Updated April 27, 2021.

The Department of Homeland Security has delayed the enforcement of the Real ID Act until May 3, 2023. The legislation will require all travelers to present a Real ID-compliant driver's license or photo ID card, or another form of federally acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board domestic commercial flights. In order to get a Real ID, travelers would need to visit their local DMV with the required documentation (proof of identity, proof of social security, proof of residency and proof of name change, if applicable). 

The Real ID Act was originally scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic. Today, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the deadline for enforcement would be pushed back another 19 months, as Covid-19 has continued to impact the ability of states to issue Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses. 

"Protecting the health, safety and security of our communities is our top priority," said secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro 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."

According to the agency, all 50 U.S. states, as well the District of Columbia and four of the five U.S. territories covered by the legislation, are now issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. However, many state licensing agencies have switched to appointment-only scheduling protocols that have significantly limited their ability to meet demand. Currently, only 43 percent of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are Real ID-compliant, according to the DHS.

The U.S. Travel Association applauded the decision. Executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes noted that enforcing an earlier deadline could have significantly hampered the travel industry's recovery, which is among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. Recent research from U.S. Travel and Tourism Economics shows 65 percent of all American jobs lost to Covid-19 were supported by the travel industry, and total domestic travel spending in the U.S fell 36 percent in 2020.

"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," said Barnes. "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."