Real ID deadline delayed: What you should know

The Real ID deadline has been pushed back, giving travelers a temporary reprieve from having to swap their driver's licenses and state ID cards in order to fly. Though it promises to bring more security to forms of identification used by airlines to allow passengers onto planes, Real ID has been criticized for confusing travelers and forcing them to visit the DMV in order to apply for the upgraded cards.

The Real ID Act of 2005 was pushed by the US Department of Homeland Security, and though it's best known for how it will impact identification shown at airports, it'll also apply to ID for federal buildings and nuclear power plants. It overrides the previous system of each US state setting individual rules for getting a driver's license or identification card.

Instead, it demands Real ID-compliant forms of identification before the card is issued. That must document legal status, Social Security number, principle residence, and more. The card itself has to include things like full legal name, date of birth, principle residence, a signature, and more. There are also rules around electronic storage of the evidence and other data.

Originally, the Real ID deadline was October 1, 2020. After that point, anyone without a compliant ID card wouldn't be able to use it to board a domestic flight. You can tell if a driver's license or state ID card is compliant, because it'll have a special star logo in the corner.

Now, President Trump has postponed that deadline. Speaking this week, he confirmed that due to coronavirus and the need for social distancing, states would be given more time to process Real ID applications. That would help avoid clustering of people at DMVs, potentially fueling the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Real ID is still a work-in-progress

Although it's been fifteen years since the Real ID Act was passed, many states have worried that their residents aren't yet up to speed with the program. The Department of Homeland Security says that roughly 100 million people have a driver's license that is compliant with the tougher standards. Still, that leaves far more without one.

Trump did not give details on a new deadline for Real ID compliance, and that's not likely to be confirmed any time soon. Several states across the US have implemented "stay at home" orders, limiting travel to only the essentials around grocery shopping, minimal exercise, and healthcare requirements.

The impact on in-person DMV visits varies. In California, for example, DMV offices remain open but only for people with appointments; there are currently no available appointments, the state says. In Michigan – which implemented a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order this week – meanwhile, all Secretary of State offices are closed until further notice.

Instead, online services are being highlighted as alternatives for many functions people might visit the DMV for. However Real ID cannot be completed online, as it requires in-person validation of paperwork.