Feds Postpone REAL ID Deadline to May 2025

Officials blame pandemic, give travelers extra time to opt in

By Evan Dougherty

Published December 5, 2022

Read Time: 3 mins


Travelers have once again been given additional time to obtain a federally complaint REAL ID to fly.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday the deadline for enforcement of REAL ID has been extended from May 3, 2023, to May 7, 2025, giving states two more years to ensure their residents have compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards.

“DHS continues to work closely with U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to meet REAL ID requirements,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement. “This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.

“DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.”

Federal officials explained that the extension is necessary to address the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card.

The pandemic has significantly hindered states’ progress of issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards due to many license centers operating at limited capacity, creating backlogs. Many state agencies enacted pandemic policies that slowed the pace of their residents’ conversion of older IDs to REAL ID-compliant ones, including delaying expiration dates on driver’s licenses and identification cards and moving operations to appointments only.

The government has delayed the REAL ID deadline numerous times due to the pandemic. In April 2021, it was extended from October 2021 to May 2023.

“We welcome the DHS announcement postponing the implementation of REAL ID requirements for individuals boarding commercial aircraft,” said Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA). “Despite previous extensions to REAL ID implementation, the saturation of REAL ID compliant licenses and identification cards remains low.

“This extension will allow individuals more time to obtain compliant identification, helping to prevent undue travel disruptions and preserving the health of the aviation system as we continue to navigate the pandemic’s impacts on global air travel. Today’s announcement is encouraging, and we remain committed to working with our federal partners to ensure REAL ID is implemented at the appropriate time.”

Passed by Congress in 2005 following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards nationwide. Security standards include incorporating anti-counterfeit technology, preventing insider fraud and using document and record checks to ensure a person is who they claim to be.

Starting May 7, 2025, all air travelers 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 flights.

REAL ID complaint cards are also required for federal purposes: in addition to flights, you will need your REAL ID to enter federal buildings (except federal courts) and gain entry to military installations.

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 within 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 centers in Bridgeville and Washington, outside Pittsburgh, are also REAL ID Centers.) 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 2025 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.

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