The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) again delayed the deadline for enforcement of REAL ID requirements, the latest pandemic-related extension for the program aimed at establishing a consistent security standard for issuing driver’s licenses and other identification.
DHS announced Tuesday it is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023.
Once enforcement is in effect, travelers age 18 and older flying commercially in the US will need to have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other state photo identity card, which should be marked by a star on the top of the card. Passports and other forms of approved identification will still be accepted.
The department attributed the latest delay to limited operating capacity at state driver’s licensing agencies, which has delayed renewals of expiring licenses.
All 50 US states, Washington, DC, and several US territories are compliant with REAL ID security standards, but only 43% of US IDs are currently compliant, as a result of pandemic-era limitations, DHS said.
However, that’s up from about 35% around a year ago.
DHS also said it needs time, along with various states, to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, such as those related to electronic document submission.
In March 2020, DHS rolled back the deadline for the federally mandated identification program a year from October 1, 2020, until October 1, 2021. Now it’s being pushed back again.
Even before the pandemic, it appeared unlikely that all states would meet the previous deadline, with former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf admitting to lawmakers that there was a “small” prospect of all states being able to issue their constituents a REAL ID by October 2020.
DHS Secretary Alejando Mayorkas said in a statement Tuesday that 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.”