The deadline for when American airline passengers are required to have the new Real ID for domestic flights has been postponed by 19 months due to COVID-19.

Real ID is an upgraded driver's licence that meets newer federal security standards at TSA checkpoints. It looks like a regular ID card but has a black or gold star in the upper right-hand corner to indicate that it meets the new requirements. The Department of Homeland Security is extending its enforcement date from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023.

American passport with boarding pass inside
The Real ID deadline has been extended due to COVID-19 © Tetra Images/Getty Images

This is because the pandemic has significantly impacted states’ ability to issue compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, as many licensing agencies are still operating at limited capacity or have implemented appointment-only scheduling protocols. Without a Real ID-compliant driver's license, passengers aged 18 or older will have to provide alternative identification, like a passport or permanent resident card, to fly domestically, and could be subject to additional screening.

All 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and four of five US territories covered by the Real ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with its security standards and are issuing compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards.

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” says secretary of homeland security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “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.”

For more information about Real ID, please visit the website here.

This article was first published on March 27, 2020 and updated on April 28, 2021. 

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This article was first published March 2020 and updated April 2021

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