Real ID deadline extended again due to COVID-19. Here's what that means for travelers

If you’ve been unable to get a travel-compliant Real ID driver’s license because of the coronavirus pandemic, you can relax a bit. The deadline has been extended another 19 months. 

On Tuesday the Department of Homeland Security once again delayed the full implementation of the law requiring people to have a Real ID in order to board domestic flights and enter some federal buildings.

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The department postponed the Real ID deadline from Oct. 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023. 

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Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It aimed to standardize the criteria used to issue driver’s licenses and other state IDs across the country. After delays, the act was supposed to go into full effect on Oct. 1, 2020, but that was pushed back due to the pandemic.

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Why the Real ID deadline was extended again

The pandemic has caused many state licensing agencies to shift to appointment-only service. The DHS said that has “significantly limited states’ capacity to issue Real ID-compliant drivers licenses and identification cards.”

The agency estimated that 43% of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards nationwide are Real ID-compliant.

“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 drivers licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, secretary of Homeland Security, said in a press release.

Two trade groups, the U.S. Travel Association and the Airports Council, applauded the delay.

“Getting to Real ID compliance on time was already going to be a challenge before COVID shut down DMVs for extended periods,” Tori Emerson Barnes, the U.S. Travel Association executive vice president for public affairs and policy, said in a statement.  “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.”

The Airports Council International – North America, which represents commercial airports in the U.S. and Canada, also supported the move.

“Extending Real ID requirements until May 2023 will help provide additional time to educate travelers and ensure they have the ability to more easily apply to obtain REAL ID-compliant identification so they will be ready to travel,” president and CEO Kevin M. Burk said in a statement.

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What is the difference between a Real ID and a regular license?

How do you know if your driver’s license is a Real ID? Look in the top right corner. If you see a gold star, your license is Real ID-compliant. If you don’t have that gold star, you may need to upgrade your license or carry another travel-compliant identification when you travel. 

What do I need to get a Real ID?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states are requiring appointments at their state licensing agency offices. 

Find your state’s information on DHS’ interactive map. Expect to bring proof of identity and residency and your Social Security number. 

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Do kids need a Real ID?

The Transportation Security Administration does not require IDs for children younger than 18 if they are traveling with an adult within the United States. However, the agency recommends checking with your airline for its specific requirements. 

Do I need a Real ID if I have a passport?

According to the TSA website, all of these are Real ID travel-compliant:  

  • U.S. passport. 
  • U.S. passport card.
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri, FAST).
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents.
  • Permanent resident card.
  • Border crossing card.
  • State-issued enhanced driver’s license.
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID.
  • HSPD-12 PIV card.
  • Foreign government-issued passport.
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card.
  • Transportation worker identification credential.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employment authorization card (I-766).
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential.

You can connect with Arizona Republic consumer travel reporter Melissa Yeager through email at [email protected]ntral.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Real ID deadline extended again due to COVID-19. Here’s what that means for travelers

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