The COVID-19 pandemic has forced DHS to delay full enforcement of the REAL ID law from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, the agency has announced.

The REAL ID law requires every air traveler 18 years or older to show genuine REAL ID-compliant identification documents at airport security checkpoints for domestic travel. Those under 18 must be travelling with an individual who has acceptable documentation.

As air travel continues to pick up, full enforcement of REAL ID is being extended by 19 months to May 3, 2023. This is good news for air travelers who have not yet been able to obtain REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or another TSA-acceptable forms of identification.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced the extension, explaining: “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.”

While all 50 states (and most U.S. territories) are prepared to issue REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards, many have had to extend driver’s license renewal deadlines and switch to appointment-only scheduling because of COVID-19 restrictions. In its announcement, DHS stated, due to the pandemic, only 43 percent of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are REAL ID-compliant.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission in 2005 as a way to improve security. Other forms of compliant documents for boarding domestic flights include:

  • U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • U.S. permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)

REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses have a star at the top of license.

If you have questions about REAL ID, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist you.