By Micaela Ricaforte
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is pushing the deadline for Real IDs by two years, meaning Americans will have until 2025 to get their new identification cards.
The DHS announced in a press release Dec. 5 it’s moving the deadline to May 2025 citing the “lingering impacts” of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason.
Originally set for enforcement in October 2020, the deadline was extended first to 2021, then to 2023 due to pandemic delays.
In the press release, the DHS said progress over the past two years issuing Real IDs has been “significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic.”
During COVID-19 shutdowns, some state agencies automatically extended the expiration date of driver’s licenses and ID cards, while others moved to online or appointment-only operations—meaning some Americans may not have found a convenient time to get a new, Real ID-compliant ID card by the previous deadline.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in the statement the DHS continues to work closely with states to meet Real ID requirements by the new deadline.
“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card,” Mayorkas said. “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.”
After the new deadline, all U.S. travelers ages 18 and older taking domestic flights will need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card to fly, unless they have a passport or military ID.
Real ID-compliant identification cards are marked by a black or gold star symbol in the top right corner of the card in most states.
In California, about 14.8 million Californians now have a Real ID—nearly 3 million more than in December 2021, according to data from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released on Dec. 5.
“We encourage Californians not to procrastinate getting a Real ID because you’ll still need one if you plan to use your driver’s license or identification card to fly within the U.S. when the new federal requirements take effect,” California DMV Director Steve Gordon said in a Dec. 5 statement.
The United States began a shift toward heightened security for travel after Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005, following the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” according to the DHS website.
Security standards incorporated since then include anti-counterfeiting technology, preventing insider fraud, and using documentary evidence and record checks to verify a person’s identity.
To obtain a Real ID-compliant identification card, the DHS recommends visiting a state’s driver licensing agency website, finding the necessary documentation, and applying online.