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TSA Just Announced a New Deadline for When You'll Need an Upgraded ID to Fly

The agency has infamously changed the date a few times already.

While it might still feel like the same long line it's always been, the security experience at the airport has changed somewhat over the past few years. Now, travelers no longer need to show their boarding pass to agents while they're getting through the checkpoint in some cities. And new technology is making it less likely you'll have to rifle through your carry-on to remove items for inspection after it's been scanned. But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is also planning to require all passengers to have an upgraded ID to fly—and they've announced a new deadline for its latest rule change. Read on to see when you'll need your new credentials in order to board.

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The U.S. government passed the Real ID Act a decade and a half ago.

A view of the US Capitol building

If talk of needing an upgraded ID to fly feels like something you've heard about for years, you're not alone. The Real ID Act was initially passed by congress in 2005 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in an attempt by the federal government to "set minimum standards" for state-issued IDs, including driver's licenses. According to the TSA, this includes "anti-counterfeiting technology, preventing insider fraud, and using documentary evidence and record checks to ensure a person is who they claim to be."

The new rule will make it a requirement for all air travelers in the U.S. to show an approved form of ID when passing through security checkpoints. But after an original start date set in 2008, the program has seen multiple extensions that have pushed its implementation back well over a decade—including the latest change.

The TSA just announced yet another new deadline for when you'll need an approved piece of ID to fly.

airport security TSA
Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

Passengers who may have been fretting over getting a new license in time for their next summer trip are in luck. On Dec. 5, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was pushing back the deadline for Real ID full enforcement from May 3, 2023 to May 7, 2025. As a result, travelers will now have an additional two years to ensure their documents comply with the changes.

"DHS continues to work closely with U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories to meet Real ID requirements," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. "This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card. DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely."

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Authorities say state agencies are still dealing with the backlog created by the pandemic.

A woman passing through a metal detector at airport security

In its release, the agency clarified that the decision to extend the deadline was made due to lingering issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the public's ability to upgrade their IDs on time. The TSA explained that some state motor vehicle departments had opted to automatically extend expiring licenses and IDs and had bottlenecked the process by shifting their operations to appointment only. The move comes even after many states had begun awareness campaigns highlighting the originally planned changes for this spring, The New York Times reports.

"Real ID progress over the past two years has been significantly hindered by state driver's licensing agencies," said Dan Velez, New England spokesperson for the TSA, per The Times. "The extension is necessary to give states the needed time to ensure their residents obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card."

Here's how you can tell if you already have an approved Real ID document.

id in wallet
Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Even though the deadline has been pushed back, many have already received the updated ID they'll need when the requirements come into effect in 2025. According to the TSA, you can identify a Real ID-compliant card by locating a star printed near the top edge or top right corner. A dedicated DHS website also outlines how you can tell if your ID is eligible and how you can secure an upgraded one if it's not already valid.

However, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, and New York residents can also opt for enhanced driver's licenses in addition to Real ID-compliant cards. The State of Washington also only issues enhanced driver's licenses. Beyond allowing you to board your flight, these IDs are marked with a flag in the top corner and can grant holders entry to Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries without needing a passport, The Times reports.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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