Deadline for Real ID for air travel pushed back due to Covid pandemic

Jay Blackman and Pete Williams
A TSA agent checks travelers through security at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.
Paul Bersebach | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security will delay the requirement for air travelers to have a Real ID-compliant form of identification, according to two senior officials with knowledge of the plans.

The deadline was supposed to be October 1. Similar delays in the past have been the result of a lack of full state compliance with the requirements for issuing the more secure driver's licenses. But this time, it's due to the pandemic, these officials say, which made it harder for people to get into state motor vehicle departments and get the new IDs.

Real ID compliant cards are issued after a more thorough check of an applicant's identification and incorporate new security features that make them harder to counterfeit. Under the Real ID Act, passed by Congress after the 9/11 terror hijackings of 2001, travelers 18 or older wanting to board an airplane by using a driver's license for identification must have one that conforms with the law's stricter requirements.

The new licenses have a star on the upper right-hand corner.

The requirement was delayed repeatedly over the past decade, at first because states said they were not prepared for the new rules. It was set to kick in last year.

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But the Department of Homeland Security postponed the effective date when the Covid pandemic made it harder for drivers to get to local motor vehicle departments. Now it is being delayed again for the same reason.

Former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said before leaving office that 114 million Americans had a compliant license and that all 50 states were issuing them. But while some states had issued Real IDs to 90 percent of their residents, others managed to get them to less than 25 percent of drivers, he said.

The Department of Homeland Security will shortly announce the new deadline, the officials said.