Countdown to REAL ID

10/14/2016

REAL ID Enforcement Update

driver's license

March 30, 2020 - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced that “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. I have determined that states require a twelve-month delay and that the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021." The extension was required by passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) which required DHS to set the deadline no earlier than Sept. 30, 2021. 

February 26, 2020 - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced states can now establish a process for applicants seeking a Real ID to pre-submit certain materials electronically that verify their identity and lawful status in the U.S. in advance of visiting their state motor vehicle agency in person. According to the DHS, “The result will be a faster, more streamlined process for DMVs and the American public.” However, due to the requirement that an applicant still visit the DMV with the same documents, that will have to be verified against what was electronically submitted, it is unclear how much time will be saved. 

NCSL posted a live recording of a webinar it hosted with top officials from DHS who provided an overview of the lastest information concerning REAL ID as well as took questions from state legislators and legislative staff. 

January 21, 2020 – The approaching Oct. 1, 2020 REAL ID full enforcement deadline is now less than 10 months away. Without any further changes by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Congress, every individual wishing to pass through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security at a commercial airport in the United States would need to present a REAL ID compliant state-issued driver’s license or an acceptable alternative such as a passport. Similarly, a person wishing to access a federal facility will also need a compliant ID, though access will continue to be allowed for purposes of applying for or receiving federal benefits.

The REAL ID Act was based on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act then sought to establish minimum security standards for state-issued licenses and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.

Currently, there are no states that DHS has deemed non-compliant, though not all states have begun to issue REAL ID compliant drivers licenses. Further, some states are operating only under an extension from DHS as they have not been deemed in compliance.

DHS has not provided information regarding secondary screening options that could be implemented for those members of the general public who are not able to present a REAL ID compliant ID or acceptable alternative when attempting to pass through TSA security at a commercial airport. While an extension of the enforcement deadline, either by an act of Congress or DHS, remains a possibility, it is highly unclear if or when such an extension would be enacted or finalized.

DHS has been working to increase public attention and focus on the upcoming deadline. Beginning in April, TSA has displayed signs at airports notifying the public of changing requirement. In August, TSA began verbally advising travelers who present non-compliant licenses of the upcoming REAL ID requirement and enforcement date.

Additionally, DHS reported that overall, states have issued 95 million REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and ID cards, up from 67 million in the fall of 2019. 

On Oct. 13, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced updates for the 32 states and territories that are not currently in compliance with REAL ID (DHS has determined that 23 states and the District of Columbia are fully compliant).  Of the 32 non-compliant states and territories, 17 were granted one-year extensions, through October 10, 2017, while four states were granted extensions through June 6, 2017.  An additional state and two territories remain under review for a possible extension into 2017. Minnesota, Missouri and Washington, which did not receive an extension in 2016, were also not granted an extension for any part of 2017. Most importantly, DHS announced that Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina would not be receiving a renewed extension, which will result in residents in these five states not being able to use their driver’s licenses to access secure federal buildings, nuclear power plants, or military bases after January 30, 2017. Additionally, residents from these states will not be able to use their driver’s license to get through airport security starting Jan. 22, 2018, unless DHS provides an additional extension or announces that they are in compliance. Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.

It is important to note that individuals do not need to adjust any immediate travel plans as the earliest that a resident from a non-compliant state would be impacted is Jan. 22, 2018. Furthermore, passengers can continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA (such as a Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID). See TSA’s website for a list of all other acceptable forms of identification. DHS will be conducting outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline, and continuing engagement with states regarding REAL ID standards. 

On Jan. 21, the Department of Homeland Security took part in a briefing for state legislators and state legislative staff. Additionally, DHS released a set of PowerPoint slides that accompanied the briefing, which can be accessed here

Listen to a recording of the briefing. 

On Jan. 8, DHS released an updated timeline for the implementation of the final phase of REAL ID, which pertains to enforcement by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports regarding domestic air travel.

Beginning Jan. 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel in order to board their flight. Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards. Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.

Currently, DHS has determined that 22 states and the District of Columbia are fully compliant with the REAL ID Act leaving most of the remaining states and territories operating under an extension through Oct. 10, 2016. Several states are noncompliant.  DHS is continuing to provide extensions, as warranted, which are granted for a maximum of one year and may be renewed if a state demonstrates continued progress towards compliance. To check whether your state is compliant or has an extension, click here.

It is important to note that individuals do not need to adjust any immediate travel plans as the earliest that a resident from a non-compliant state would be impacted is Jan. 22, 2018. Furthermore, passengers can continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA (such as a Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID). See TSA’s website for a list of all other acceptable forms of identification.  DHS will be conducting outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline, and continuing engagement with states regarding REAL ID standards. 

DHS Presentation on the implementation update - given to NCSL exclusively during a conference call held on Jan. 21.

Oct. 14, 2015  |  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an update regarding the ongoing enforcement of REAL ID. On October 10, the federal government began requiring that those visitors seeking to access military bases and almost all federal facilities with their state-issued driver's licenses or identification cards must have such documents issued by REAL ID compliant states or a state that has received an extension. This update does not affect identification shown at airports in the United States and until announced otherwise the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept valid driver's licenses and identification cards issued by all states. 

DHS does plan to release a schedule for changes to air travel requirements by the end of the year, although any such changes will be annoucned at least 120 days in advance of implementation. Additionally, DHS annouced it is currently in the process of determining which noncompliant states will receive further extensions to comply with REAL ID. States that are granted an extension until October 1, 2016 will be notified as they are approved. There will also be a three-month grace period before the expiration of current extensions becomes effective. During this period, federal agencies may continue to accept driver's licenses and indeificiation cards issued by states who extension has expired. 

DHS also recently annoucned that it had granted an extension to New Hampshire and expected to issue one to New York and Louisiana shortly. For a full update on compliant and non-compliant states please visit DHS.gov

Dec. 29, 2014 | DHS announced that residents who currently use a non-compliant license or identification card issued from a state who is deemed in compliance with REAL ID will now have until October 1, 2020 before their current license or card has to be upgraded to a REAL ID compliant license or card in order to access federal facilities. The previous deadline was Dec. 1, 2014 for those born after 1964 and Dec. 1, 2017 for those born before. DHS also made clear that nothing in this update impacts license or card holders from non-compliant states. A list of compliant and non-compliant states can be found here

Oct. 29, 2013 | DHS announced that phased in enforcement of the REAL ID Act will begin on Jan. 20, 2014. This announcement follows a nearly year-long period of deferred enforcement. The REAL ID Act aims to create national standards for state issued driver’s licenses and identification cards so they may be used to board commercial aircraft and access certain federal facilities.

DHS plans to implement REAL ID enforcement over four phases, with each phase consisting of two distinct deadlines. The first deadline will begin a three-month “warning” period where noncompliant IDs will still be accepted. Following this three-month period, full enforcement of the phase will begin, and IDs from noncompliant states will no longer be accepted for federal purposes as defined in the act.

Enforcement Schedule

  • Phase 1: Restricted areas for DHS Headquarters - Nebraska Ave. Complex
    • Jan. 20, 2014 – Begin notification period (three-month period)
    • April 21, 2014 – Full enforcement
  • Phase 2: Restricted areas for all federal facilities and nuclear power plants
    • April 21, 2014  - Begin notification period (three-month period)
    • July 21, 2014 - Full enforcement
  • Phase 3: Semi-restricted areas for the remaining federal facilities
    • Oct.  20, 2014 - Begin notification period (three-month period)
    • Jan. 19, 2015 - Full enforcement
  • DHS will evaluate the first three phases to determine how to implement phase 4.  Phase 4, which pertains to entry of commercial aircraft, will go into effect no sooner than Jan. 1, 2016. 

DHS defines “restricted areas” as those that are normally accessible only to agency personal, contractors and their guests. “Semi-restricted” areas are defined as those areas that public can enter but are subject to identification control.

State Progress (updated 10/29/2014)

The latestest information on state implementation status can be found here.

State Responses

NCSL Policy Directive

 Background Information |  The Act, Regulations, Implementation Guidance

Additional Resources

REAL ID Announcements

NCSL Resources