REAL ID Has Been Delayed (Again) to 2025, 20 Years After the Law Was Signed

An agent handing back a passport at a TSA checkpoint
An agent handing back a passport at a TSA checkpoint

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it has delayed the REAL ID full enforcement deadline once again. The date has been pushed back by 24 months, to May 7, 2025. Domestic air travelers will now have an extra two years to use their current driver’s licenses to get through airport TSA checkpoints before they’ll be required to use REAL ID-compliant licenses. If this deadline stands, REAL ID will go into effect two decades after Congress first established the new identification requirements.

The security standards have been delayed yet again due to COVID-related disruptions. The Department of Homeland Security cited pandemic backlogs faced by state driver’s licensing agencies as the reason for the delay. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated:

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“DHS continues to work closely with U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to meet REAL ID requirements. 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.”

The new federal minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses were established in 2005 when Congress passed the REAL ID Act based on a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission. Initially, the standard was supposed to go into effect in 2008, but numerous state governments refused to update their drivers’ licenses to comply with the new standard.

Most recently, REAL ID was supposed to go into effect on October 1, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government delayed the deadline to October 2021, then pushed it further to May 2023. With today’s delay pushing the deadline to 2025, REAL ID will roll out 17 years after it was first meant to take effect.

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