The COVID-19 pandemic has forced DHS to delay full enforcement of the REAL ID law from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, the agency has announced.

The REAL ID law requires every air traveler 18 years or older to show genuine REAL ID-compliant identification documents at airport security checkpoints for domestic travel. Those under 18 must be travelling with an individual who has acceptable documentation.

As air travel continues to pick up, full enforcement of REAL ID is being extended by 19 months to May 3, 2023. This is good news for air travelers who have not yet been able to obtain REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or another TSA-acceptable forms of identification.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced the extension, explaining: “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.”

While all 50 states (and most U.S. territories) are prepared to issue REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards, many have had to extend driver’s license renewal deadlines and switch to appointment-only scheduling because of COVID-19 restrictions. In its announcement, DHS stated, due to the pandemic, only 43 percent of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are REAL ID-compliant.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission in 2005 as a way to improve security. Other forms of compliant documents for boarding domestic flights include:

  • U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler card (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • U.S. permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)

REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses have a star at the top of license.

If you have questions about REAL ID, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist you.

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Photo of Forrest G. Read IV Forrest G. Read IV

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice…

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice focuses on assisting employers in obtaining employment-based nonimmigrant visas (e.g., H-1B, L, O, TN) for foreign national employees and work-related immigrant (green card) visas, including PERM Labor Certifications, and advising employers on compliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations. He has broad experience in advising large, mid-size and small employers on their various immigration needs and developing strategies to help them navigate through complex immigration issues. He also has particular experience in counseling employers in the health care industry and addressing immigration-related issues that arise for their broad range of health care professional employees (including advising on and obtaining employment authorization for medical residents and fellows and obtaining J-1 visa waivers for foreign national physicians completing their medical training in the United States). His immigration practice also includes defending employers in connection with Department of Labor H-1B and H-2B investigations.

Mr. Read’s employment law experience includes representing management, particularly academic medical centers in the GME context, in a wide array of workplace disputes and litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including matters related to discrimination, retaliation, harassment, disability, family and medical leave, various wage and hour issues, contracts, and intentional torts. He advises academic medical centers on the interplay between applicable academic law and employment law and the ramifications of what are divergent legal requirements and standards. Mr. Read also provides counsel with respect to the legal impact of competency standards for residents and trainees in GME, including situations involving discipline, remediation, and dismissal. He provides advice and guidance in the peer review process, including provision of verification and assessment of training in response to third party inquiries.

As a member of the Firm’s Corporate Diversity Counseling group, Mr. Read also has experience in providing assessments and making recommendations to corporate and institutional clients with respect to diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, conducting related internal investigations, and shaping, developing and enforcing effective policies and initiatives to ensure consistency with client values and in furtherance of business goals and objectives.