A TSA agent checks a traveler's ID at Pittsburgh International Airport's main security checkpoint.

Pandemic Prompts Feds to Delay Real ID

Federal authorities have delayed enforcement of the long-awaited Real ID mandate for a year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new enforcement date of Oct. 1, 2021, gives travelers another 12 months to obtain a federally compliant identification that will allow them to board flights and enter certain federal buildings.

“Pushing the deadline for Real ID will allow the industry to recover from the reduction in air service without the added pressure of implementing a new identification system,” said Debbie Bowman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Aviation Council. “It was the right decision, to extend the deadline, given the residual effects of reopening (Department of Transportation) offices, getting the public secure in waiting in lines, and incentivizing them to travel again.”

Several states and travel associations expressed concern that not enough people could meet the original Oct. 1, 2020, deadline even before the coronavirus forced businesses to close and prompted stay-at-home orders across the country.

Several states, including Pennsylvania, have temporarily closed their driver licensing centers as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

The U.S. Travel Association praised the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement of a one-year delay, but cautioned that a longer extension may be necessary to ensure that implementation won’t further disrupt the already devastated travel industry.

“The economic damage of coronavirus is already massive, and as we move toward a recovery phase, it would be awful if the Real ID deadline hits and creates yet another obstacle to people traveling,” said Roger Dow, the association’s president and CEO.

In announcing the extension, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said the move will also allow the department to work with Congress to make changes that will expedite the issuance of Real IDs once the current health crisis passes.

“Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts,” Wolf said. “States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs. This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their Real ID.”

Congress passed the Real ID law in 2005, prompted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to increase security measures for state-issued identification. The new cards are required for federal purposes; in addition to flights, you’ll need Real ID to enter federal buildings (excluding federal courts) or to gain entry to military bases.

U.S. passports will remain an acceptable form of Real ID-compliant identification even after next year’s deadline.

Getting Real ID requires submitting an original birth certificate or passport, a Social Security card, proof of residency and documentation of any name changes. There is a one-time $30 fee in Pennsylvania.

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