April 27 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday delayed enforcement of REAL ID requirements for 19 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the agency announced the deadline will be delayed from Oct. 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, as circumstances resulting from the pandemic have "significantly impacted" the ability of states to issue REAL ID-compliant drivers licenses and identification cards.
"Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said. "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."
At the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security initially delayed the deadline for REAL ID implementation from Oct. 1, 2020.
When the policy takes effect on May 3, 2023, U.S. air travelers 18 years of age and older will be required to provide a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or other state photo identity card -- denoted by a star in the upper right corner -- at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel. Other forms of approved identification, such as passports, will also be accepted.
The agency said that all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and four U.S. territories are currently compliant with REAL ID security standards and are issuing compliant identification.
However, only 43% of all state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards are currently REAL ID-compliant.
Homeland security noted that the delay will allow many driver's licensing agencies that are still operating at limited capacity to reopen and give the agency time to implement requirements under the REAL ID Modernization Act, including streamlining processing by allowing electronic submission of documents.