Apr 27 2021

DHS Postpones REAL ID Deadline to May 2023

United States

At a glance

  • Individuals will have an additional 19 months - until May 3, 2023 - to obtain U.S. state driver’s licenses or identification cards that comply with the REAL ID Act security standards.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has extended the full enforcement deadline to May 3, 2023, from October 1, 2021, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on states’ ability to issue REAL-ID compliant documents.
  • Airlines and federal agencies will continue to accept non-REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards for domestic air travel and admission to federal facilities until May 3, 2023.

The issue

The Department of Homeland Security is giving individuals an additional 19 months to obtain state driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards that comply with the requirements of the REAL ID Act, due to continued state government disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline for REAL ID Act compliance has now been postponed to May 3, 2023, from October 1, 2021. The agency is expected to publish an interim final rule to formally implement the postponement in the coming days. Originally, REAL ID required states to be in compliance by 2008, but that deadline has been extended numerous times.

Beginning May 3, 2023, individuals will need a REAL ID-compliant identification to board domestic flights and to enter federal facilities.

A closer look

The REAL ID Act requires U.S. states to issue state driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards that meet enhanced security standards, and requires individuals to present REAL ID-compliant identification documents for domestic air travel and admission to federal facilities. To date, 54 U.S. states and territories issue REAL ID-compliant identification. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted many state licensing agencies’ ability to issue these compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards by the October 2021 deadline. According to DHS, only 43 percent of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently REAL ID-compliant. 

Beginning May 3, 2023, air travelers in the United States must show identification that complies with the document security requirements of the REAL ID Act. On that date, a traveler must present:

  • The state-issued driver’s license or identification card that meets REAL ID requirements; OR
  • An acceptable alternative form of identification. The following documents, among others, are approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):



For additional acceptable documents, see the TSA’s full list

What this means for travelers

The DHS announcement means that individuals who have not yet obtained a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card have additional time to do so. Until May 3, 2023, travelers can continue to present valid U.S. state driver’s licenses and identification cards for domestic air travel even if they do not meet REAL ID standards.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.