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The Real ID deadline is extended until 2023, but 'there's no need to procrastinate,' experts say

"It may be best to get it taken care of in the next few months."

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Travelers have more time to obtain a Real ID-compliant driver's license or state identification card. The Department of Homeland Security is delaying the deadline by 19 months, from October 1, 2021, until May 3, 2023, NBC News reported Tuesday. Once the requirement is in effect, you'll need a Real ID-compliant driver's license or state identification card to get through security screening at all U.S. airports.

"Extending the Real ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver's licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC.

The Real ID requirement was supposed to go into effect in October 2020 but was extended to October 2021 when the pandemic made it harder for Americans to get appointments at their local motor vehicle departments.

Even with the reprieve, experts say you should still aim to get your Real ID sooner rather than later.

"There's no reason to procrastinate," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at deal site Travelzoo. "Especially as travel bookings well into 2022, and even 2023, continue to climb."

What is a Real ID?

Real ID-compliant licenses look a lot like your standard driver's licenses but have a star in the top right-hand corner. The star signifies that you underwent a thorough vetting process to obtain your ID and is the final phase of the Real ID Act passed in 2005.

Real IDs will be required not only to board a commercial flight but to enter federal facilities and nuclear power plants, according to the Department of Homeland Security. If you don't have a Real ID, Transportation Security Administration officers will also accept your passport (U.S. or foreign), Global Entry card, and a few other forms of identification.

Travel bookings well into 2022, and even 2023, continue to climb.
Gabe Saglie
Senior editor at Travelzoo

Each state has different requirements for undergoing the Real ID vetting process. You can check your state DMV's website for more details on what you'll need to bring with you. A few states — Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York — are offering both Real IDs and "enhanced" driver's licenses, both of which will pass muster with TSA. Washington state only offers enhanced licenses.

Depending on where you live, a Real ID can cost more to obtain or renew than a regular license. For example, Pennsylvania charges a one-time fee of $30 for Real IDs, on top of its typical driver's license renewal fee of $30.50. However, not all states are charging extra. In Missouri, a Real ID-compliant license is the same price as a noncompliant license. (Check your local DMV's website for costs.)

Experts say you should still get a Real ID soon

Before the deadline was extended, experts said it would be smart to get a Real ID as soon as possible. That advice still stands.

"We're seeing a lot of demand for travel later in the year so it may be best to get it taken care of in the next few months since many people may try to renew around the holiday travel season," says Hayley Berg, travel expert at Hopper.

After all, the deadline extension is supposed to remedy any rush or stress put on local motor vehicle departments, says Saglie of Travelzoo.

Even with the delayed deadline, "the inevitable last-minute push will likely, again, be fraught with tight availability," he says. "The sooner we get up to date with things like Real ID applications and renewed passports, the smoother our return to travel will be."

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