Real ID going into effect 1 year from today; check your identification

May 3, 2022

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After numerous delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers officially have one year from today to get a Real ID suitable for domestic air travel, the Transportation Security Administration reminded the public earlier this week.

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(Screenshot from the Department of Homeland Security)

The Department of Homeland Security most recently extended the date by which travelers must comply with getting a Real ID last month to May 3, 2023, to further provide Americans more time to comply with securing a Real ID given COVID-19-related constraints.

This deadline follows a 19-month extension of the law’s implementation that was previously scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, 2020. Even so, signs have been on display at U.S. airports for the past few years, reminding passengers about the pending change to photo ID requirements mandated by the Real ID Act.

Congress passed the Real ID Act shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, setting clearer standards for government-issued photo IDs.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted states’ ability to issue Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity,” DHS said in a statement on April 27. “DHS will publish an interim final rule in the coming days to effectuate this enforcement date change.”

The aforementioned final rule came May 3, exactly one year out from the date that all domestic air travelers, age 18 and older, will need to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card. Additionally, state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses and other TSA-approved forms of identification will continue to be accepted to pass through airport security checkpoints to travel.

Acceptable alternative identification documents include U.S. passports and passport cards, U.S. Department of Defense IDs, the DHS Trusted Traveler Card and the enhanced driver’s license.

Most Real IDs can be easily identified by a star in the upper right or left corner, as shown below. The cost varies by state, ranging from $10-$85.

Read more: Everything you need to know about getting a Real ID

(Screenshot from the Department of Homeland Security)

“Protecting the health, safety and security of our communities is our top priority,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in April. “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.”

Prior to the DHS extension announcement, some state licensing agencies extended their state’s deadlines for renewing expiring licenses due to pandemic-induced limited operating capacities resulting in a slow turnaround time in issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. As a result, less than half (43%) of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently Real ID-compliant, according to DHS.

Every state in the United States, the District of Columbia and four of five U.S. territories covered by the Real ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with Real ID security standards, according to DHS. Therefore, all residents should be able to obtain their Real ID-compliant driver’s license.

However, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll automatically receive a Real ID when renewing your driver’s license, so be sure to double-check whether your ID is compliant. DHS provides a helpful tool on its website to help verify whether your ID is compliant.

(Screenshot from the Department of Homeland Security)

Also note that if you have Clear or PreCheck, you will still need to have an ID that matches the requirements under Real ID.

Bottom line

A Real ID will be necessary for all domestic air travel starting next May. Travelers who already have Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses have no further steps to take at this point.

Unless you plan on carrying your passport with you for travel within the U.S., all other travelers should upgrade their ID. DHS details how to obtain a Real ID from your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Be sure to read TPG’s guide for all you need to know about the Real ID.

Featured image from the Department of Homeland Security.

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