Travelers get a break: REAL ID deadline extended to Oct. 1, 2021, due to coronavirus
Renewing your licenses or getting a new "Real ID" can be confusing. A breakdown of a few of the things you'll need to know. Wochit
Travelers who have procrastinated making appointments to obtain driver's licenses or state identification cards that comply with the federal government's Real ID law are catching a break.
The new deadline will be Oct. 1, 2021, a year from the current deadline.
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, said in a statement Thursday that many states have closed their motor vehicle license offices due to the coronavirus pandemic, precluding people from applying for licenses that comply with security standards enacted by Congress after 9/11.
Without the change, many would not be allowed to board flights in the U.S. without one of the Real ID cards starting Oct. 1, though Real ID-compliant forms of identification don't just include driver's licenses. A passport or a passport card meets the requirement, as do Global Entry cards for U.S. travelers returning from overseas.
The extension also relieves pressure on states, many of which were behind on implementing the Real ID requirements before the coronavirus became a factor.
"The federal, state and local response to the spread of the coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," he said. "Extending the deadline will also allow the Department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the current health crisis concludes."
After pleas from several governors and state agencies, President Donald Trump said Monday that the deadline to obtain the enhanced licenses would be delayed.
"We are postponing the deadline for compliance with Real ID requirement at a time when we are asking Americans to maintain social distancing," Trump said at Monday's news briefing on the coronavirus crisis.
Some states had hoped for more time because of the huge numbers of travelers trying to get into DMVs before the deadline.
The U.S. Travel Association, a trade association for travel-related businesses, hailed the delay.
"Extending the Real ID deadline is clearly the wise course of action at this juncture," said CEO Roger Dow in a statement.
Dow said his organization had asked the Department of Homeland Security for the delay "until the current economic environment improves and DHS can certify that access to air travel will not be negatively impacted" after enforcement of the rule begins.
Another industry group, Airports Council International, said the delay will help slow the spread of the virus.
"In a time of social distancing and requests for people to stay home, now is not the time to be sending more people to their local departments of motor vehicles," said CEO Kevin Burke.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 100 million Americans now have driver's licenses that meet the new standards. However, Wolf, the acting DHS secretary, said in February two-thirds of Americans still lack a compliant license.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson