The deadline for Real ID driver’s licenses and ID cards has been extended by 12 months as pandemic-related social distancing and lockdowns disrupt issuance.
“Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security, as directed by President Donald J. Trump, is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current October 1, 2020 deadline,” said Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf in a news release Thursday.
Without the extension, people would have been required to present Real ID cards to board U.S. flights or enter federal buildings starting on Oct. 1, 2020.
“The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” Wolf said.
The DHS statement follows Monday’s remarks by President Donald Trump, who at a White House briefing said the administration would be postponing the deadline for compliance with Real ID requirements, noting it was coming “at a time when we’re asking Americans to maintain social distancing.”
The president said that the new deadline would be announced “very soon.”
Under the law, Americans are required to visit their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and obtain a Real ID-compliant card, or alternative such as a U.S. passport, if they want to fly domestically or access federal facilities like nuclear plants.
The nation’s governors have urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend the Real ID deadline for some time.
Last week, three Democratic chairmen of relevant House committees sent a letter to the DHS requesting Real ID Act implementation be postponed.
“While we recognize the administration’s commitment to ensuring the nation’s full compliance with the REAL ID Act, the challenges presented by the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on the aviation industry must lead DHS to delay the October 1 implementation deadline,” they wrote.
“For implementation to go smoothly, DHS would need tens of millions of Americans to get new identifications over the next several months. Creating lines at Departments of Motor Vehicles would be foolish during a pandemic,” they added.
Obtaining a Real ID requires stricter security checks to be issued and an in-person visit to the DMV, a growing problem as the epidemic spreads.
New York, the nation’s COVID-19 hot-zone, shuttered all DMV’s statewide on March 22.
“While offices are closed, expiration dates for driver licenses, non-driver IDs, and registrations will be extended. And all road tests will be suspended until further notice. #coronavirus,” the agency said in a tweet.
At @NYGovCuomo‘s direction, all DMV offices statewide are closed until further notice. While offices are closed, expiration dates for driver licenses, non-driver IDs, and registrations will be extended. And all road tests will be suspended until further notice. #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/o98ieX6uQQ
— NYS DMV (@nysdmv) March 21, 2020
The extension comes as confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 80,000 in the United States as of Thursday afternoon, including 1,136 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins tally.
Real ID-compliant licenses feature a star in the upper portion of the ID.
Currently, 47 out of 50 states are equipped to issue identification that is Real ID-compliant. New Jersey is under review, and Oklahoma and Oregon have been granted an extension, according to the DHS.
Another concession the DHS has made for people traveling is the ability to use an expired driver’s license to pass through security.
Last week, the Transportation Security Administration said it would let people use expired licenses if they are unable to get them renewed as the epidemic spreads across the country.
The agency said these licenses will be accepted for “a year after the expiration date, plus 60 days after the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency.”
The rule applies to licenses that have expired after March 1, 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.