Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf speaks with the House Committee on Homeland Security regarding the FY21 budget and policy priorities (DHS photo by Tara A. Molle)

Coronavirus Delays October REAL ID Deadline By One Year

The REAL ID compliance deadline has been extended a full year beyond Oct. 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said today.

The announcement comes as the National Governors Association has been lobbying for an extension, arguing in a March 17 letter to Wolf that many departments of motor vehicles had shut their doors to enforce social distancing.

“Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security, as directed by President Donald J. Trump, is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current October 1, 2020 deadline,” Wolf said in a statement. “I have determined that states require a twelve-month delay and that the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021.”

DHS will soon publish a notice of the new deadline in the Federal Register, he said.

“The federal, state and local response to the spread of the coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” Wolf continued. “Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts. States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs.”

As the action would keep millions of people “from applying for and receiving their REAL ID,” Wolf said “extending the deadline will also allow the department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the current health crisis concludes.”

“Protecting both the health and national security of the American people continues to be the top priority for the President of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security,” he added.

In their letter to Wolf, the NGA had asked for a REAL ID extension of “no less than one year.”

“We believe an extension will allow all of us to focus our efforts on combatting the spread and severity of COVID-19. More time will also give Congress the ability to pass legislation that will update the 2005 REAL ID Act and bring it up to speed with today’s technology. This will also give DHS time to make regulatory changes,” the NGA wrote.

“Governors support the intent and purpose of the REAL ID Act. States and territories are investing their resources to raise public awareness, provide timely REAL ID services, and adopt best practices to achieve feasible REAL ID benchmarks. Despite these efforts to comply with the law, the 15-year-old statute has not kept up with today’s technology. Additionally, the current regulatory framework creates unnecessary administrative burdens and constraints. This has led to slower and lower levels of issuance of REAL ID compliant cards as well as frustrations for American citizens.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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