What Is a Real ID? What to Know About Real ID Enforcement Being Delayed Until 2025

Real IDs have been delayed for a third time. Here's what you need to know.

It turns out, flights aren’t the only thing getting delayed this holiday season. After three prior delays, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the deadline for the enforcement of Real IDs will be pushed back once again. This time, the deferment will last for two more years until 2025.

Originally, enforcement for using Real IDs when traveling domestically was supposed to begin 14 years ago—and most recently was supposed to go into effect in May of 2023. So what’s the hold-up? And what is a real ID? Will it impact your travel plans this year and beyond?

We’ve got you covered on everything you need to know about Real IDs and what the new deadline means for domestic travel.

What is a Real ID?

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Real ID Act was passed. The idea behind this law was that IDs like driver’s licenses would be more difficult to acquire. Real IDs would also be more enhanced than the average identification.

Once Americans upgraded their license or choice of identification to a Real ID, a star symbol in the upper right-hand corner would identify it as a Real ID. Then, agencies like the TSA could only accept Real IDs over a standard license once the deadline passed.

The enhanced IDs could then be utilized to not only access domestic flights but to enter nuclear plants and federal facilities.

Why was the deadline pushed back?

The Department of Homeland Security clarified that COVID-19 is part of the reason for the latest postponement. Due to the “lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” there has been a pileup of applications at DMVs nationwide.

Thus, the agency declared the move would help prevent delays that could impact travel.

“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card,” Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary said in a press release.

Can I still fly without a Real ID?

Boycott Of Airport Body Scanners And Holiday Travel Add Up To Long LinesChris Hondros/Getty Images

Currently, Americans can fly without a Real ID. At least until May 7, 2025—the day the deadline passes. Once the deadline arrives, anyone over 18 who wishes to fly domestically will need a Real ID or will have to bring another form of ID like a passport.

However, if you’re a resident of a state like Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York or Vermont and have a driver’s license, you might be all set. Those states have created their own enhanced driver’s licenses that meet federal standards and are identifiable with a star in the upper-right corner.

How can I obtain a Real ID?

If you don’t live in those states, once it’s time to get a real ID the process is simple. Information like full name, date of birth, Social Security number and proof of residence will be needed to obtain a Real ID at your local DMV.

Until 2025, travelers have “the time necessary to get the credential needed to fly domestically,” Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy of the U.S. Travel Association, Tori Emerson Barnes, said.

That is, of course, if the deadline doesn’t face any further delays.

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Jessica Kaplan
Jessica Kaplan is the Assistant Editor of Trends, where she writes lifestyle articles for Readers Digest, Taste of Home, and Family Handyman. When she’s not writing, you can find her listening to a podcast.