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20 May 2020
On 23 March 2020 President Trump announced that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would delay the 1 October 2020 deadline for compliance with the REAL ID Act 2005 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the REAL ID Act, federal agencies cannot accept state-issued driver's licences or ID cards for 'official purposes' – which includes for clearance through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoints at airports – unless those documents meet certain minimum requirements.
The compliance date was postponed at a time of nationwide social distancing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As REAL IDs may be obtained only in person at Department of Motor Vehicles offices, state and federal officials were concerned that a potential congregation of travellers would rush to obtain compliant licences ahead of the October 2020 deadline. On 26 March 2020 the DHS announced that it is extending the enforcement deadline by one year until 1 October 2021.
The postponement is welcome news for US airlines and the US travel industry, which had grown increasingly concerned (well before the COVID-19 outbreak) that a significant number of US nationals had not yet obtained a REAL ID and, therefore, would be unable to use their driver's licences at a TSA checkpoint to travel by air starting in October 2020. As recently as 28 February 2020, the DHS indicated that only 34% of state-issued driver's licences and ID cards were REAL ID-compliant.
Under the previous timeframe, passengers who arrived at a US airport on or after 1 October 2020 would need to present a REAL ID-compliant licence or an alternative acceptable document (eg, a passport) to proceed through the TSA checkpoint. Those who did not would likely be turned away and unable to travel until they obtained TSA-acceptable identification, leading to significant disruptions for passengers and airlines.
For further information on this topic please contact Rachel Welford at Cozen O'Connor by telephone (+1 202 912 4800) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Cozen O'Connor website can be accessed at www.cozen.com.
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