Federal Government Backs Down, Won’t Require “REAL ID” Until May 2025

The federal government has ‘no fly’ and ‘enhanced screening’ lists, where they check the names of passengers and decide under what conditions someone is allowed to travel, if at all. It’s a form of pre-crime profiling where people have been added to the list by mistake, for revenge, or for any number of reasons that you aren’t allowed to know. The government claims it’s exempt from judicial review.

The requirement of an ID to fly, though, actually began as a ‘do something’ policy after the explosion of TWA flight 800. President Clinton demanded to be able to immediately announce new airline security measures, and told his National Security Council team to come up with some.

This process is meaningless, though, if people can change the name they fly under. So in 2005 Congress passed requirements for IDs that are harder to fake. Since then, however, rules requiring people to actually have a ‘REAL ID’ have been kicked down the road. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic I said this would be the perfect excuse to delay it again because nobody wanted travelers hassled or refused entry past security weeks before a presidential election. So they pushed it out to March 3, 2023.

I roll my eyes every time I see airline websites touting the deadline, and signs at the airport, because why should I believe it now? Indeed, it’s now been pushed out again – this time to May 7, 2025. And would you believe they’re blaming Covid?

The extension is necessary, in part, to address the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card. REAL ID progress over the past two years has been significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic. Many of these agencies took various steps in response to the pandemic including automatically extending the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards and shifting operations to appointment only.

A ‘real ID compliant’ license has to have a person’s full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, a unique identifying number, home address, and a front-facing photo.

Prior to issuing a ‘real ID compliant’ license, a state has to require:

  • A photo ID (they make you present a photo ID to get a photo ID..) or ID that includes full name and birth date
  • Documentation of birth date (usually a birth certificate)
  • Proof of legal status (if you’re undocumented, better to just drive without taking a test) and social security number (something you didn’t even have to have when I was born)
  • Documentation of your residential address

Remember this? You weren’t going to be able to fly without a REAL ID in 2018.

About 2000 people a day fly without any ID, of course, so the requirement to have a REAL ID isn’t exactly correct. They make you answer personal questions derived from a giant database about you and other Americans to prove your identity instead.

If REAL ID actually goes into effect in May 2025 it’ll be 20 years after Congress required it by law. I thought there was some chance it could happen in March 2023, since that would be far enough away from any election. Now it’ll be six months after the next presidential, so up to whomever wins that election to decide whether or not it happens.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There’s nothing like carrying an internal passport to have citizens sing about being “free” and “brave.” It’s all to avoid a black market in airline tickets anyway. And as discussed here before, the no-fly lists are such a hopeless mess of redundancies and inaccurate names as to be worthless…not that they did much anyway except show the system doesn’t trust itself. (If it did, then it wouldn’t matter who was flying.) I guess the only good thing about pushing this out two more years is that in 2023 we won’t have a mass stampede of people getting it at the last minute. My wife and I took care of this joke already, and that’s sure what it was. The bureaucrats in my state wanted some kind of work record; I finally dug something up (I work remotely and have direct deposit), but could have just as easily typed the whole thing and they wouldn’t have known.

  2. Before someone adds a misinformed comment about who started all this, let’s remember that Real ID was an invention of a Republican administration.

  3. I’ll get my devotees to terminate the Constitution and install me as President . . . and, because they love me, for life. Once I’ve consolidated power, I’ll remind them that as the Constitution has been terminated, there’s no more Second Amendment and we’ll confiscate all firearms. Absolute genius!

  4. PS – I own several firearms. And, while many might think otherwise based on some of my comments, I’m a conservative.

  5. @drrichard. It’s not going to avoid the mass stampede of people getting it at the last minute. There may be less of a mass stampede (see below), but the stampede is just delayed another two years 🙂
    @Gary – are there still any states that don’t issue RealIDs? Last time around there were a couple. By 2025, I’m guessing most states will have had RealIDs for 7-10 years, so the majority of people will already have one by virtue of license renewals.

  6. Has anyone else noticed the Real ID has a star on it just like the Nazis used to have the Jews wear. I’ll pass. Regular drivers license works fine and if I need to fly domestically I’ve got my British Passport or Permanent Resident Card.

  7. I flew a lot domestically without ever showing ID to security screeners throughout the Clinton Administration and even into September 2001.

    If the US airlines asked for ID, it wasn’t common until the Bush-Cheney Admin; and until then it was mostly limited to people checking in luggage.

  8. I was issued a non-“REAL ID” driving license rather recently as I refuse to go into the licensing folks to give them more documents and oppose this REAL ID crap that but makes for a more powerful domestic spying regime aimed mainly against free Americans.

  9. REAL ID was Wisconsin right wing Republican (then) US Congressman Sensenbrenner’s child. The “ID is security” nonsense at the airport passenger security screening checkpoints is the spawn of Republicans. CAPPS is the spawn of Gore/Democrats.

  10. Can’t believe you went with the McLovin ID? I would have gone with the Nick Papagiorgio from Yuma, AZ, ID!

    “Welcome to the Mirage, Mr. Papagiorgio”.

  11. You provide a lot of helpful information on this site.
    But, “Federal govt backs down…”
    Come on…can’t we do better than that leading (editorializing) headline…and more accurately? Everyone argues govt is never transparent. When they are this is the kind of stuff many people just can’t resist throwing around…
    I can’t wait for the responses to my response…have a nice day.

  12. When you view this situation through clear eyes, it’s easy to understand. It has nothing to do with politics or freedom. There’s a huge glob of bureaucrats involved in this project. If the deadline were actually enforced, once the Real IDs were issued, said bureaucrats would have nothing to do. They’re unemployable except for government jobs. Extending the Real ID deadline keeps them off the welfare rolls.

  13. @MrG. Washington state does not use the star. There is a banner across the top that says enhanced driver’s license. You also get a small USA flag at your photo showing you are a USA citizen. Flying back home from other smaller airports at times I’ve had to explain my license was the enhanced one and the star is not required. They have looked it up and found I was correct. This delay seems both unnecessary and needed for that reason only

  14. I live in Illinois. My license was due to expire in September 2022. A few months prior, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office sent me a letter saying that I could renew my license by mail, but it wouldn’t be a Real ID, so yes, states are still issuing IDs that aren’t “Real” IDs. I figured I’d just suck it up and get a Real ID. Couldn’t find a DMV appointment at the few facilities anywhere near me that issue Real IDs. The closest one was in downstate Springfield. I live in Chicago. So I renewed by mail and received a new non-Real ID. Glad I didn’t go through the hassle. I have a passport card in addition to a regular passport so if it ever gets required, I’ll just use the passport card as ID.

    My sister lives in Colorado. She was able to get a Real ID through the mail. Go figure…

  15. @ Allison – All states issue non-REAL IDs. There’s no requirement to get one. It’s the actions that it enables (going through airport security, entering federal buildings, etc.) that it enables.

  16. When I got my last passport I got the extra one to get me into Mexico and Canada. It’s the size of a drivers license and is valid as a Real ID. Good for 10 years too

  17. @huey – exactly. Same with the TSA. It’s long past time to restore our freedom and liberty at the airports and stop the taxpayer funded make work program falsely labeled “airport security.”

  18. I’ve had Real ID for years as it is necessary for me to enter some federal buildings and the facilities of contractors who work for the federal government. Without it I would have to present my original, sealed birth certificate and go through a screening process prior to gaining entry. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is anyway. If you have a cell phone or have Internet in your house, the federal government has the ability to acquire way more information about you than what the Real ID reveals.

  19. This constant delay is embarrassing. In the twenty years it’s taking to implement this Real ID requirement, Berlin could build another brand-new new airport.

  20. “Lingering effects of Covid-19” will be an excuse for lots of things for a long time. In this case at least they realize they aren’t prepared for the chaos that would probably ensue. They aren’t prepared for lots of things, as detailed frequently in this blog, so at least it’s a good thing they realize it this time and make the postponement now instead of later.

  21. @Mr G – LOL

    Did you notice that our flag has 50 stars, so we must be 50 times worse than the Nazis!!!

  22. Millions of rural Americans get their mail delivered to PO Boxes. Have been to a rural DMV in the mountains where a guy attempted to get his son a permit. Sorry, can’t get a permit if you can’t prove your street address because your mail goes to a PO Box. Sorry, can’t show a FedEx or UPS receipt as proof that you actually live at your address because it’s not from the post office. Maybe you could show a utility bill if the DMV clerk is willing to accept that. MAYBE. There are tens of thousands of DMV clerks in America, and they are somehow now expected to be experts in document forensics.

    And so on.

    That’s why REAL ID is never going to happen. And the government will never just simply fess up and say this.

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