U.S. Government Postpones REAL ID Requirement Yet Again: Now To Start On May 3, 2023

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With the implementation of the federal ‘Real ID Act‘ in the United States, travelers with standard drivers licenses issued by various U.S. states might soon require another ID document if they wish to fly domestically but the federal government just postponed the deadline yet again – to May 2023.

Individuals can also upgrade their current ID / Drivers License to the new REAL ID which comes with a designation on it while non compliant ID’s include the notion “Federal Limits Apply”.

The REAL ID was supposed to become compulsory from January 1st 2020, then it was postponed to 2022 and now yet again (“due to COVID”)  to May 3, 2023 from which day on travelers will require a new/updated “REAL ID” or a passport (among a few other accepted documents).

ABC reported about this last night (access here).

The federal government is delaying the deadline for the REAL ID enforcement for a second time.

Every domestic air traveler 18 and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license or another TSA-acceptable form of identification beginning on May 3, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.

The original deadline of Oct. 1, 2020, was postponed for one year due to the pandemic. The second delay is also “due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the DHS press release.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity,” the release states.

Extending the deadline is the “right move,” Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president for public affairs and policy, said in a statement.

All 50 states, Washington, D.C., and four of the five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with REAL ID security standards, the government said.

The regulation was put in place in 2005 as a way to ensure travelers’ identities following the 9/11 attacks, according to the DHS. Only recently did all 50 states come into compliance.

Currently, only 43% of driver’s licenses issued in the U.S. are REAL ID-compliant, according to DHS data.

The U.S. – the most powerful country in the world – is now fumbling around for 16 years trying to put an ID requirement in place that was brought on the way a few years after 9/11. Let that sink in for a moment!

Then there was also the little mishap in California back in 2018/2019 when the state already issued 2.3 Million such documents accepting insufficient documentation which included a residency verification. This had to be corrected and I believe I used a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation that I received confirming a consumer complaint against an airline, which was of course accepted as “Document issued by a government agency”.

The Real ID requirement is actually quite restrictive and you’re only able to get one if you’re in possession of a Social Security Number (obviously no problem for U.S. citizens and lawful residents) as well as valid Identification which includes as a minimum a valid foreign passport, valid U.S. Visa and most recent I-94 (definitely a problem for individuals with questionable immigration status).

If someone doesn’t have the required documents certain states will still issue ID’s or even drivers licenses but those will bear the designation “Federal Limits Apply” which also means airport security is a no go once the new regulations kick in. I can imagine this becoming a big mess as there are likely many folks with “unsuitable” ID’s in the United States.

Acceptable Identification apart from the non-excluded drivers licenses / ID’s include:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Permanent resident card

All foreign travelers obviously have a passport already so it doesn’t concern them and Permanent Residents will be able to use their PR Card (Green Card) as form of identification.

Let’s assume individuals with these ‘unsuitable’ drivers licenses won’t replace them with something secure they would then have to apply for a passport and carry it around which is a bit inconvenient.

For those not really desiring to do either, the cheapest and most convenient option is probably the Passport Card (see details here) which is a wallet size card just like a drivers license for a fee of US$65 that serves exactly like a passport for land- and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean and Bermuda. You can’t fly internationally with those though.

I can’t see an advantage of applying for a passport card instead of just getting a REAL ID compliant drivers license or state ID unless you have an exclusive purpose for the border crossings as listed above.

Conclusion

There is quite a bit of controversy about this Real ID Act but in my opinion it’s always good when a country introduces nationwide standards for ID’s that can be used for purposes of entering secure areas or other situations where it’s relevant to be in possession of a proper identification that can’t be altered. Imagine being a law enforcement officer and having to verify more than 50 different ID documents for the same country.

For purposes of being able to clear airport security however I don’t see why a properly issued state ID by the local DMV wouldn’t be enough in combination with a proper TSA search every traveler should receive anyway.

How can a country that is on the forefront of both civilian and and military cyber capability not bring a simple ID document online in almost two decades after congress has passed this? Will we really see the Real ID come live in 2023? By then my first one that I got years ago has already expired.

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