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Real ID deadline for air travel pushed back again due to pandemic

The deadline was set for Oct. 1, but it was becoming clear many people wouldn’t make it, in part because COVID made it harder for states to issue new licenses.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will be delaying once again the deadline for passengers to have a Real ID before they would be able to travel by plane. 

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday the most recent deadline, which had been set for Oct. 1, would be extended 19 months, all the way to May 3, 2023.

The deadline marks the date when those without a Real ID-compliant license or passport will not be able to board domestic flights, visit a military base or enter some federal buildings.

DHS says only 43% of all driver’s licenses and identification cards are compliant.

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” Secretary Mayorkas said in a statement, "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.”

People are getting compliant IDs as they renew, but it takes time and the process has been slowed by the pandemic, with many state agencies operating at limited capacity.

All 50 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia and four out of five U.S. territories are covered by the Real ID Act and must comply with Real ID requirements. 

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, following a recommendation from the 9/11 commission. The change led to minimum security standards for state-issued driver's license and identification cards. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.