New travel authorization systems are being postponed again in the United States and in Europe: REAL ID until May 7, 2025, and ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) until 2024.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the deadline for REAL ID until May 3, 2023. As this date approached, it became clear the country was still not fully ready. At this point, approximately 53% of the population has REAL ID-compliant documentation. Since more than 40% do not, enforcement regarding domestic flights would cause significant problems.
REAL ID was passed by Congress based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. It sets minimum security requirements for the issuance of state driver’s licenses and identification cards. REAL ID documents have a star at the top.
These secure documents will be required for every air traveler 18 or older at airport security checkpoints for domestic travel. Those under 18 must be travelling with an individual who has acceptable documentation. When it is in force, REAL ID-compliant documentation will also be necessary for accessing federal facilities and entering nuclear power plants. Because federal facilities do have the authority to require REAL ID compliance even before May 7, 2025, those without a compliant identification document should check with the facility before planning avisit.
Even when REAL ID is in force, other documents can be substituted or used instead of REAL ID. Those other documents include U.S. passports, DHS trusted traveler cards, U.S permanent residence cards, federally recognized tribal-issued photo IDs, USCIS Employment Authorization Cards, and certain Canadian documents, among others.
In the meantime, Europe has been planning to roll out a program, ETIAS, since 2022, which will be similar to the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization Registration System (ESTA). Once ETIAS is in force, all U.S. citizens travelling to Europe to enter the Schengen Zone will be required to register in advance online. The Schengen Zone consists of 27 members states, including those in the European Union. To register, the individual will need a passport valid for three months beyond the intended stay, an email account, and a credit card or debit card.
ETIAS has been delayed more than once, and it is being delayed again due to staffing issues, technical issues relating to data infrastructure, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Be on the lookout for Jackson Lewis updates on REAL ID and ETIAS.