Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it plans to once again extend the final full enforcement date for REAL ID by another two years. Before the announcement, the full enforcement date for the REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 at the behest of the 9/11 commission, was set for May 3, 2023; the enforcement date is now set for May 7, 2025 - almost twenty years after congress passed the Act.
For context, congress passed the REAL ID Act nearly two decades ago to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses after the 9/11 terrorists were issued state IDs allowing them to board domestic flights. These minimum security standards include anti-counterfeiting technology, aids in preventing insider fraud, and documentary evidence and record checks to ensure a person is who they claim to be.
After the final enforcement date, federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), will be prohibited from accepting driver's licenses and identification cards that do not meet these federal standards.
The Secretary of DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas, stated in a press release:
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.
According to DHS, the extension was necessary "to address the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver's license or identification card," despite the continual extensions to the deadline long before the pandemic began. The release adds, "Many of these agencies took various steps in response to the pandemic including automatically extending the expiration dates of driver's licenses and identification cards and shifting operations to appointment only."
Under the regulations, beginning May 7, 2025, every traveler 18 years of age or older will be required by TSA to have a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver's license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel, the IDs will also be required for entering certain government and federal buildings.
The DHS release reassures that security standards are not being compromised by the department's failure to enforce the REAL ID Act:
Since enactment of the REAL ID Act in 2005, advancements in technology have enabled TSA to make significant improvements in checkpoint screening, particularly in the areas of identity management, on-person screening, accessible property screening and alarm resolution. Through the deployment of technologies such as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), Advanced Technology (AT) X-ray, then Computed Tomography (CT), Bottled Liquids Scanners (BLS), and Credential Authentication Technology (CAT), as well as deployment of Passenger Screening Canines (PSC) and the rollout of TSA PreCheck®, TSA has continually advanced its security capabilities. TSA also increased its vetting capability through Secure Flight, a risk-based passenger prescreening program that enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers before they arrive at the airport by matching their names against trusted traveler lists and watchlists. REAL ID requirements will strengthen these improvements further by providing an additional layer of confidence in the identity of the traveler.
You can read the complete press release here.