The US Department of Homeland Security has once again extended the deadline for travellers to obtain Real IDs by an additional 24 months.
Enforcement of the regulation – which had been set to begin May 3, 2023 – now goes into effect on May 7, 2025.
After that date, US travellers over the age of 18 will be required to show photo IDs at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints that comply with Real ID standards, or use an approved substitute such as a valid US passport. The rule applies to both domestic and international travel.
The requirements cover driver’s licenses issued by state departments of motor vehicles, non-driver IDs and learner’s permits. A Real ID is indicated by a star on the face of the document.
The idea of creating a national policy for identification documents came out of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The purpose is to ensure “consistent and secure standards for identification used in air travel and entering federal facilities,” according to the DHS website, to give authorities another tool to curb terrorism and identity fraud.
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2007. Enforcement was originally slated to begin in October 2020. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the federal government to delay implementation of the requirement several times, first to 2021, then 2023 and now to 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 Mayorkas said in a statement. “DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible.”
The Real ID process essentially involves providing additional proof of identity and residence, including various forms of documentation with the applicant’s Social Security number and current address. The requirements may vary from state to state, so DHS advises checking individual states’ DMVs for details.
Currently, all 50 states in the US, the District of Columbia, and four of five US territories that fall under the act are issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards.
However, according to the US Travel Association, more than 100 million Americans are still without a Real ID. And with state authorities facing a backlog of license renewals caused by the pandemic, it is unlikely that all of those licenses could be issued prior to the 2023 deadline.
“Extending the REAL ID deadline is the right decision,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, EVP of Public Affairs and Policy at the US. Travel Association, “Now is not the time to create significant travel disruptions. This delay helps to give travellers the time necessary to get the credential needed to fly domestically.”