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Real ID deadline for air travel pushed back again due to COVID-19

The Department of Homeland Security will delay the deadline for air travelers to have a Real ID-compliant form of identification, pushing it back another 19 months, according to DHS officials.

The latest deadline was October 1, 2020, but the new deadline will be May 3, 2023, allowing air travelers more time to update their IDs amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. DHS officials tell CBS News that obstacles brought about by COVID-19 caused the most recent delay. 

Over the past decade,  REAL ID enforcement has stalledafter states failed to comply with the security requirements for issuing the updated driver’s licenses. But officials say this time, it’s the COVID-19 pandemic that’s at fault, preventing Americans from accessing state motor vehicle departments to retrieve the updated identification.

About 119 million of the 274 million state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs are REAL ID-compliant, according to DHS. That is a 43% adoption rate.  A spokesperson for the agency says that the national adoption rate is currently increasing each month by approximately 0.5%. That is a drop-off from the adoption rate of 1% each month, in the month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.”

A compliant Real ID, which has a star symbol at the top of the card, will be required by travelers 18 or older to board a plane, enter a federal building or a military base. Passports, military IDs or Global Entry cards also will qualify to get through airport security.

The Real ID Act was passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks after several of the hijackers improperly obtained state IDs. All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of five U.S. territories are covered by the REAL ID Act. 

Americans must undergo a more stringent ID check when applying for a REAL ID-compliant card, incorporating new security features that prevent counterfeiting.

According to DHS, state licensing agencies in several states have shifted to appointment-only scheduling amid the pandemic, closing the window of opportunity for many Americans to update their licenses.

DHS also says that various state agencies also need time to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, including changes that will streamline processing by allowing the electronic submission of certain documents.  

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