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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin enforcing the Real ID law on May 7, 2025. The new deadline follows a previous deadline of May 3, 2023, which was deemed unworkable in part due to the pandemic and its continued disruption of states’ abilities to issue the Real ID–compliant driver’s licenses. The DHS issued a statement on Dec. 5 saying the new deadline will give state licensing agencies time to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic. The extension also gives the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) time to “implement innovations” to make the process as smooth as possible.
If this sounds familiar, the enforcement date, first set for 2008, has been delayed multiple times.
Conceived as part of 2005 legislation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Real ID law requires people to show security-enhanced IDs to pass through airport security checkpoints or to enter certain federal facilities, such as military bases, once the regulations begin to be enforced. Travelers will also be able to use passports or certain other federal documents as an alternative to a Real ID.
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Sometimes called the Star Card, because most states are marking their Real ID cards with a gold or black star in the top right corner, it must include an encoded “machine readable zone,” like a passport’s, with a person’s scannable information. Many state driver’s licenses already have this feature. The key thing that makes the card special is that the federal government requires you to provide certain identifying documentation to obtain one from your state.