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Looming Real ID Deadline Extended Until October 2021

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Amid this public health crisis, it seems like there’s nothing but a steady stream of bad news on loop. Things have gone from bad to worse to even worse in a few short weeks. For some in the U.S., however, there is a glimmer of positivity that could make air travel a bit easier starting this fall.

In response to the sudden COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was pushing back the deadline for REAL ID enforcement yet again. Here’s the key part of a recent statement from the agency’s Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf:

“Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security … is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current October 1, 2020 deadline. I have determined that states require a twelve-month delay and that the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021.”

REAL ID is an enhanced form of identification designed to meet federally mandated security standards in the wake of the September 11th attack. Compliant IDs are virtually identical to non-compliant versions, but with a gold or black star (the color depends on the issuing state) in the upper right-hand corner. As of last month, the deadline for American air travelers to secure a REAL ID was October of this year. After that date, domestic passengers with a non-compliant ID would no longer be able to pass through TSA checkpoints at U.S. airports without presenting alternative identification like a passport, military ID, or Global Entry card. They could also be subject to secondary screening and even longer wait times.

Since passing the REAL ID Act in 2005, Congress has repeatedly pushed the deadline back for various reasons. This latest extension applies to all 50 states and was designed to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 by keeping crowds of cardholders looking to upgrade or renew their IDs out of DMV offices nationwide. It also gives air passengers one less thing to worry about once we’re all traveling again (hopefully) within the next few months.

For the latest information on the REAL ID requirements, and to prepare your own license renewal, visit the TSA’s website.

Believe it or not, it is technically possible to board a plane without any identification. It just requires a little extra time and patience.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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