Real ID license deadline pushed to 2021 amid coronavirus outbreak

The US Department of Homeland Security announced the deadline has been pushed back a year.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
Real ID sample

Real IDs feature a star in the corner.

Ohio Department of Public Safety

If you haven't gotten around to updating your license to a new, Real ID version, don't sweat it -- especially in this era of social distancing.

The federal government will push the Real ID deadline to Oct. 1, 2021 amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday. CNN first reported the deadline extension after reviewing the text of the emergency stimulus bill that passed Congress on Wednesday.

"The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," said Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf in a statement. "Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts. States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs. 

"This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their Real ID. Extending the deadline will also allow the Department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of Real IDs once the current health crisis concludes."

Originally, the federal government was set to require the ID for all aircraft passengers starting on Oct. 1, 2020. Those without it would need to bring a second form of ID aside from their driver's license, such as a US passport. It was a major change, because Real ID requires far more documentation than a standard license renewal. If you're unsure if your license is part of the Real ID program, look for a star in the corner.

As federal, state and local governments call on residents to stay home, people packing into their local DMV is hardly ideal, hence the deadline extension. In fact, numerous states have closed DMVs or limited how many remain operational to control the spread of COVID-19.

Although there'd been a recent push before the COVID-19 pandemic to have citizens update their IDs, the program actually began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Real ID is meant to beef up security standards for licenses, but states have been slow to adopt the standards amid criticism that it infringes civil liberties.

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First published March 26.