U.S. travelers who have yet to obtain federally compliant REAL ID got a reprieve this week when federal officials pushed back the enforcement deadline an additional 18 months as the travel industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date from Oct. 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023.
“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” Mayorkas said. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.”
The pandemic has created difficulty for some states to issue, or renew, REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards due to many license centers operating at limited capacity.
The government initially announced a one-year delay in implementation—from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021—last spring as the onset of the pandemic ground much of the U.S. to a halt.
Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, or identification card, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.
Congress passed the REAL ID law in 2005, prompted by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The law established national minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The new cards are required for federal purposes: in addition to flights, you’ll need your REAL ID to enter federal buildings (excluding federal courts) or gain entry to military bases.
At a Pennsylvania driver’s license center, you’ll be asked to opt into REAL ID, similar to the way you choose to become an organ donor. If you answer yes and provide the required documentation, you’ll receive your REAL ID card in the mail in seven to 10 days.
If you go to a REAL ID Center with the required documentation, you’ll get your card on the spot. (The driver license center in Bridgeville, outside Pittsburgh) is also a REAL ID Center.) There is a one-time fee of $30 for a REAL ID. If you’re renewing your driver’s license, you’ll pay the $30 plus the cost of renewal, and your REAL ID will become your driver’s license.
U.S. passports will remain an acceptable form of REAL ID-compliant identification even after the 2023 deadline.
DHS continues to work closely with all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories to implement REAL ID Act requirements. For more information on REAL ID in Pennsylvania, click here.