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The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that the deadline for states to comply with REAL ID requirements for driver's licenses and ID cards had been extended by two years from May 2023 to May 2025 – giving Americans more time to obtain compliant ID cards that will eventually be necessary to board flights at U.S. airports.
The concept of REAL ID came about in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The 9/11 Commission recommended that the federal government establish standards for driver's licenses and identification cards that states and territories must satisfy.
TSA SAYS OVER 2.56M PEOPLE SCREENED AT AIRPORT CHECKPOINTS THE SUNDAY AFTER THANKSGIVING A Transportation Security Administration agent wearing checks the identification of a traveler at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah, on Sept. 15, 2020. ( George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)
To that end, the bipartisan REAL ID Act was enacted in 2005 with an initial deadline of May 2008 for the ID provisions of the law. Among the security standards required by the law are anti-counterfeiting technology, measures to prevent insider fraud, and the use of documentary evidence and record checks to validate that a person is who they claim to be.
However, states' resistance to the law's requirements and implementation difficulties has led to repeated extensions of the REAL ID compliance deadline, first to 2009, then 2011, followed by further extensions into 2013 and 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for the REAL ID rollout, as some states temporarily suspended renewals for driver's licenses and ID cards. The aftermath of the pandemic has prompted follow-up extensions to October 2021 and later to May 3, 2023.
TSA ON TRACK TO CONFISCATE RECORD NUMBER OF FIREARMS A TSA agent screend a traveler at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on June 9, 2020. ( Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the latest deadline extension to May 2025 "will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card." He added, "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."
As of 2022, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and four of the five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act are issuing compliant driver's licenses and ID cards. However, several states were only certified as compliant within the last few years, meaning that many residents still have older IDs that don't meet the standards.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS: ‘BE AS NICE AS POSSIBLE’ TO FRONTLINE WORKERS, BRIAN KELLY SAYS Travelers make their way through a TSA screening line at Orlando International Airport ahead of the Fourth of July holiday on July 1, 2022, in Florida. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)
The U.S. Travel Association provided a statement to FOX Business from Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy, that praised the decision to extend the deadline: "Extending the REAL ID deadline is the right decision, and U.S. Travel appreciates DHS leadership for recognizing that with 100 million Americans still lacking a REAL ID, now is not the time to create significant travel disruptions. This delay helps to give travelers the time necessary to get the credential needed to fly domestically."
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"It remains critical that DHS identify ways to modernize identification standards to make the entire travel process more efficient. We will continue working with our partners in the travel industry and DHS to advance these solutions and get the traveling public fully prepared for the implementation of the REAL ID Act in 2025," Barnes' statement concluded.
Once the REAL ID requirements take effect after the new deadline of May 8, 2025, travelers boarding flights in the U.S. – whether domestic or international – will be required to have a REAL ID-compliant form of identification unless they have an acceptable alternative document, such as a passport.
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