By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Homeland Security Department confirmed on Tuesday it will delay enforcement of rules requiring Americans to get new identification cards in order to board airplanes or enter a federal building by another 19 months until May 3, 2023.
The department in March 2020 had extended the “REAL ID” deadline until October 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted many states to suspend issuing new driver licenses. Congress in 2005 approved federal standards for issuing identification cards but enforcement has been repeatedly delayed.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said 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.
“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,” Mayorkas said.
Starting in May 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card to get on an airplane.
DHS said only 43% of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently REAL ID-compliant. DHS and various states also need time to implement requirements, including changes that will streamline processing by allowing the electronic submission of certain documents.
The Transportation Security Administration is evaluating the operational, security and privacy impacts of using biometrics to verify identity instead of manual identity document checks.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)