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DHS Postpones REAL ID Deadline until October 2021

In light of the COVID-19 emergency, the Department of Homeland Security is giving individuals additional time to obtain state driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards that comply with the requirements of the REAL ID Act. The deadline for REAL ID Act compliance has been postponed to October 1, 2021, from October 1, 2020.

Beginning October 1, 2021, individuals will need a REAL ID-compliant identification to board domestic flights and to enter federal facilities.

A Closer Look

The REAL ID Act requires U.S. states to issue state driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards that meet enhanced security standards, and requires individuals to present REAL ID-compliant identification documents for domestic air travel and admission to federal facilities.  To date, 52 U.S. states and territories currently issue REAL ID-compliant identification or have received an extension of time to comply, but not all valid driver’s licenses or identification cards issued by those states comply with REAL ID. 

Originally, REAL ID required states to be in compliance by 2008, but that deadline has been extended numerous times. The October 2020 deadline was intended to be final, but has been further extended because many state motor vehicle departments are closed due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Beginning October 1, 2021, air travelers in the United States must show identification that complies with the document security requirements of the REAL ID Act. On that date, a traveler must present:

  • The state-issued driver’s license or identification card that meets REAL ID requirements; OR
  • An acceptable alternative form of identification. The following documents, among others, are approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):

For additional acceptable documents, see the TSA’s full list

What This Means for Travelers

The DHS announcement means that individuals who have not yet obtained a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card have additional time to do so. Until October 1, 2021, travelers can continue to present valid U.S. state driver’s licenses and identification cards for domestic air travel even if they do not meet REAL ID standards.

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