If you, like millions of other Americans, haven’t been able to get your REAL ID yet, you don’t need to worry.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has — for the third time — delayed the deadline for requiring travelers to have a REAL ID to fly. Instead of beginning May 2023, the REAL ID requirement will now go into effect May 7, 2025.
“DHS continues to work closely with U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to meet REAL ID requirements,” secretary of the DHS, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, said in a statement. “This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card. DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible.”
Mayorkas went on to add that the DHS “will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.”
Here’s what the news means.
In May 2025, Every U.S. air traveler 18 years old or older will be required to present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-accepted form of identification to pass through airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.
The other acceptable forms of identification include a U.S. passport, a passport card, a military ID, a permanent resident card, or other options such as a Global Entry traveler card.
Importantly, the new REAL ID will also be necessary to access certain federal facilities, including courthouses.
Why There’s Yet Another Delay
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 to enact the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production.
In 2013, the DHS announced a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act so it could be implemented in “a measured, fair, and responsible way.” Today, all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of the five U.S. territories are covered by the REAL ID Act.
Moving to implement the program, however, has been a rocky road with numerous delays.
Most recently, for example, the deadline was extended 1 year from October 1, 2020, to October 1, 2021, due to pandemic-related closures of driver’s licensing agencies. Later, the deadline was further extended from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, because many driver’s licensing agencies across the country operated at limited capacity or with reduced hours after pandemic-related closures were lifted.
The new 24-month extension is necessary “to address the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card,” Mayorkas explained.
“REAL ID progress over the past 2 years has been significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic,” Mayorkas continued. “Many of these agencies took various steps in response to the pandemic including automatically extending the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards and shifting operations to appointment only.”
News of the new delay by DHS isn’t really unexpected. For instance, Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association, had asked DHS to delay the implementation of the REAL ID Act last May because the pandemic had created a “significant hurdle” impeding the act’s widespread adoption.
“We are calling on DHS to delay implementation or develop an alternative screening process for travelers with a legacy ID to ensure that air travelers and the industry’s recovery are not impeded,” Emerson Barnes said in a statement. “The delay should last until measures are in place to prevent a scenario in which travelers are turned away at airport security checkpoints.”
How To Get Your REAL ID
If you still need a REAL ID, at a minimum, you’ll need to produce documents that provide your full legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, two documents listing your principal address for residency, and your lawful status. It’s important to note that some states may impose additional requirements.
To check and see if your state has additional requirements, you can use DHS’s interactive map to find your state’s Secretary of State website. From there, you can determine which documents will be necessary for your REAL ID, as well as learn how to make arrangements to visit your local DMV or another agency to apply for a REAL ID.
You can also learn more about the REAL ID Act at the DHS FAQ webpage.
While you’re thinking of recent developments for travel, be sure to read all of our travel news, including: