Implementation Dates Delayed for REAL ID-Compliant Driver Licenses, ID Cards

The REAL ID Act prohibits federal agencies, effective May 11, 2008, from accepting a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for any official purpose unless the license or card is issued by a State that meets the requirements set forth in the Act. The READ ID Act requirements are very rigorous and include immigration-related prerequisites for driver’s license applicants to show proof of legal U.S. Citizenship, or lawful admittance into permanent or temporary residence.

Official purpose as defined in the Act includes accessing federal facilities, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, entering nuclear power plants, and any other purpose as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security may grant extensions of time for States to meet the requirements of the Act if the State provides adequate justification for noncompliance.

Many states have experienced difficulties in satisfying all of the READ ID Act requirements, which is why the Secretary of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to comply on several occasions. In December 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began issuing compliance determinations to States submitting certification materials. DHS also announced that it would enforce the Act through a phased approach and, in the fall of 2013, released its phased enforcement schedule. Phased enforcement ensures that REAL ID can be implemented in a strategic manner, taking into account the progress made by the States.

Pursuant to current REAL ID regulations, beginning December 1, 2014, federal agencies may not accept State-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards for official purposes from individuals born after December 1, 1964, unless the license or card is REAL ID-compliant and was issued by a compliant State as determined by DHS. Also, beginning December 1, 2017, federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses or identification cards for official purposes from any individual unless the card is REAL ID-compliant and was issued by a compliant State as determined by DHS.

This final rule changes both of the above document enrollment dates to October 1, 2020. The new October 1, 2020 document enrollment date represents nearly a full eight-year enrollment cycle from the January 15, 2013 full compliance date and should give residents of compliant states sufficient time to obtain licenses that satisfy the REAL ID standards, which presumably they will do in accordance with their normal renewal schedule.

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