Know this Real ID information now to be prepared tomorrow

The Real ID deadline is delayed for a year, just 18 months away.

Real ID driver's license vs. Standard Issue driver's license for Pennsylvania, courtesy of the Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaUntil last month, the U.S. Real ID information deadline for its citizens and residents to fly domestically was October 1, 2020.

The world is upside down. COVID-19 is directly affecting the daily lives of billions. It has infected more than 1.2 million people and killed almost 70,000. The United States is the hardest-hit nation in the world. More than 336,000 are infected and 9,600 are dead. Current calculations show a mortality rate in the U.S. of 2.9 percent.

Air travel is almost at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some essential air travel continues. Many government services aren’t available. Most states have shut down their Department of Motor Vehicle offices. That means that almost no one can currently obtain Real ID-compliant state-issued identification.

The Real ID final implementation is delayed because of the COVID-19 emergency.

More than 90 percent of the U.S. population is under stay-at-home orders. Plus, state government offices are closed to blunt the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is postponing the Real ID deadline until October 1, 2021.

The extension buys time for those who have no Real ID to be prepared to travel domestically once US air travel returns to normal.

What is Real ID?

Real ID is a 2005 Act of Congress creation. The act modified authentication and procedural standards for states issuing driver’s licenses and state identification cards.

Much of the impetus to pass this law came from the 9/11 Commission. Their report stated, “For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”

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The Real ID law makes it as difficult as possible to create fake driver’s licenses for terrorists.

4 International Air Travel Rights DownloadUnder Real ID, each state is required to issue driver’s licenses and non-drivers’ IDs that are dependable, verified identification, listed in a national computer database system. The idea is to make it impossible or at least extremely difficult to fly using fake state-issued identification.

Under the Real ID law, states are required to make their applicants prove who they are. They must prove their birth date, birthplace, citizenship, legal status, Social Security number and residence before they can be issued a compliant driver’s license or other state ID.

Citizens and legal residents’ identities will be confirmed before flying by Real ID identification. Similarly, entry into federal buildings and other sensitive areas will presumably be safer from terrorism than they are today.

The law sounded great when first passed. However, pragmatism and cost estimates for implementing the program quickly angered state governments. By 2009, states estimated the Real ID price tag for states would top $11 billion. Many states delayed implementation. After a time, they eventually succumbed, realizing that the Real ID law wasn’t going away.

State delays made it difficult for citizens to obtain Real ID licenses by the 2020 deadline.

Because of the states’ delays, many U.S. citizens and permanent residents found it difficult to obtain Real ID by the deadline. In some states, there were major snafus. For example, 3.6 million Californians who already had Real ID-compliant licenses had to submit new proof of residency after DHS changed Real ID rules in 2018. Just last year, 8,000 Marylanders were in danger of having their Real ID-compliant licenses confiscated.

What are the Real ID requirements for travel today?

No Real ID requirements are in force for air travel today. Conventional valid driver’s licenses are sufficient. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even that rule is relaxed. As of March 1, expired driver’s licenses or state-issued non-driver’s identification are allowed to be used to fly domestically for one year after expiration or 60 days after the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency, whichever is longer.

VPN: Key for Travelers' Internet Security DownloadOf course, other identification may also be used to fly domestically. These IDs include valid passports or passport cards, permanent resident ID cards, and trusted traveler ID cards, etc.

What will be the Real ID requirements for domestic travel on October 1, 2021, and beyond?

Oregon and Oklahoma are the only two states without real-ID laws. The already-compliant states, as well as all territories, will be able to provide eligible residents with Real IDs by October 2021. There should be no excuse for any eligible U.S. resident to claim they couldn’t obtain a Real ID-compliant ID by next year’s deadline.

Travelers can use a passport to fly domestically instead of a Real ID license, but I caution against it, except in a pinch.

Travelers with other Real ID-compliant identification can fly with a US passport. However, passports are expensive and time-consuming to replace. They’re required to fly internationally.

If lost, stolen or damaged while traveling domestically, passports take time to be replaced. On the other hand, Real ID-compliant state identification is less expensive and can generally be replaced quickly.

US citizens or permanent residents who only occasionally travel by air within the US should get a Real ID-compliant state ID. During the current hiatus, obtain the necessary documentation to apply for one. That way, you will be able to be ready for the October 1, 2021 deadline.