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The deadline for obtaining a REAL ID to board domestic flights is being extended until May 03, 2023 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement was made by the Department of Homeland Security on April 27, 2021.
Originally, passengers boarding domestic flights were being required to obtain a compliant REAL ID card by October 1, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration had delayed the implementation of REAL ID requirements until October 2021. With the new announcement, the Biden Administration had further delayed implementation for an additional 19 months.
With the deadline approaching later this year, department of motor vehicle offices around the country have been seeing higher than normal activity. Due to the social distancing measures put in place because of COVID-19, pushing the deadline back will help to limit crowds gathering at these offices – if they are even open – to obtain their compliant ID cards.
“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “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.”
The move has been cheered by those in the travel industry, including U.S. Travel Association President.
“Extending the REAL ID deadline is the right move, and we’re grateful to DHS for heeding the evidence and the calls from our industry,” stated Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes.
“Getting to REAL ID compliance on time was already going to be a challenge before COVID shut down DMVs for extended periods. 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.”
Wait, What’s a REAL ID Anyway?
Haven’t heard about the REAL ID Act? You’re likely not alone. The policy, however, has been around for quite a while.
Congress passed the REAL ID act in 2005 as part of their response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Effectively, this law provides an extra layer of security for state issued identification cards – including ID cards, drivers licenses and more. Applicants are required to provide multiple forms of identification in order to receive their REAL ID compliant card.
The law has been slowly rolled out for the last 15 years. If you have traveled on an airplane in the last several months, as you moved through TSA, you likely saw information about the forthcoming REAL ID requirements. This is because all states were required to be compliant with the act by October 1, 2020. However, recent issues with the spread of COVID-19 have forced government officials to push back the date until October 1, 2021.
Is My ID Already Compliant?
If you’ve been issued a new driver’s license or state identification card in the last few years, chances are good that your card is already REAL ID compliant. Most states have been preparing the the deadline and have been issuing compliant IDs, as such.
So, how can you tell if your card is compliant? In most states, there is either a gold or black star in the upper right-hand corner of the ID, indicating the card meets REAL ID requirements.
Here’s a peek at how a REAL ID compliant card looks in Indiana:
As you can see, REAL ID compliance is indicated by the black star in the upper right corner of the card.
In addition to state-issued identification cards, a passport also serves to meet REAL ID travel requirements.
Why Do I Need a REAL ID?
So, when does needing a REAL ID actually come into play? There are really only three instances where you’ll likely need it:
- To get on a U.S. domestic flight without a passport
- To visit a secure federal facility without a military ID
- To enter a nuclear power plant
Keep in mind, you’ll only need to show your REAL ID if you plan to fly without a passport. So, if you’d rather bring your passport to the airport when flying, you are welcome to do that instead.
It’s also important to remember that a REAL ID compliant card is not a substitute for a passport. You will still need a passport to travel internationally, including to and from Canada and Mexico.
You’ll also want to note that the law applies to federally run services and programs only. States are responsible for issuing identification cards, so you may not be required to obtain a REAL ID compliant card in order to:
- Register to vote
- Legally operate a motor vehicle
- Purchasing alcohol
- Travel by air under age 18
How to Obtain a Compliant REAL ID
Getting a REAL ID that is compliant is pretty easy. Simply visit your local department of motor vehicles office and bring the proper documentation with you.
Because ID requirements are handled at the state level, you’ll need to check exactly which documents are accepted at your local branch. At a minimum, however, you’ll need to bring:
- Proof of Identity – A document which includes your full legal name and date of birth (typically a birth certificate or unexpired passport). If your name, date of birth, or gender has changed, you may be required to provide legal proof of the change (typically with a marriage license, adoption papers, divorce decree, etc.).
- Proof of Lawful Status – A document which proves you are legally allowed entry to the United States (typically a birth certificate, unexpired passport, or foreign passport with visa and I-94 forms).
- Proof of Social Security – You’ll need to bring your Social Security card with you. If you do not have access to your card, please check with your state to see what type of documentation will satisfy this requirement.
- Proof of Address (x2) – You’ll need to bring two documents that provide proof of your principal place of residence (typically utility bills, credit card bills, doctor bills, current bank statements, current paycheck stubs, etc.) These documents must have both your name and your address listed.
Again, please check with your state department of motor vehicles for clarification on the specific requirements for obtaining an ID in your state.
It’s important to remember that many state agencies and field offices will be closed until the social distancing recommendations due to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. Also, keep in mind that the deadline for obtaining a REAL ID card to fly is being extended until October 1, 2021.
Even if you haven’t cancelled your travel plans yet, don’t feel like you need to run out and get a new ID card right away. Please check with your local department of motor vehicles office regarding their current hours and any closures before making plans.
Is your identification card compliant? What do you think of the federal government extending the REAL ID deadline? Let us know in the comments below.