“At a time when we’re asking Americans to maintain social distancing, we do not want to require people to go with their local DMV,” Trump said.
Trump did not say when the new deadline was but said it would be announced “very soon.”
Governors and lawmakers had asked for the extension in recent days, citing the states’ inability to process Real ID applications during the coronavirus crisis. Many states have reduced or shut down motor vehicle services as part of their response to the public health emergency.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who chairs the National Governors Association, sent a letter to the Trump administration last week saying the coronavirus outbreak was disrupting states’ efforts to issue the credential and calling for a delay of the deadline. Some state and industry leaders say they expect an extension of at least a year.
“We are pleased that the federal administration has readily agreed to the governors’ request to extend the REAL ID deadline. This will help contribute to our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, and avoid major confusion for the states,” Hogan said in a statement Monday night.
States have been scrambling to comply with the 2005 domestic security program known as the Real ID Act, which was designed to help prevent terrorist attacks and reduce the number of licenses granted to undocumented immigrants. By law, states are mandated to issue IDs with counterfeit-resistant security features; applicants must provide several documents proving their identity and legal U.S. residency.
Most states are in the early phases of issuing the new security-enhanced licenses and identification cards. About one-third of Americans have a Real ID credential, according to Department of Homeland Security data.
Because Real ID requires an in-person visit to the DMV, applicants are not able to get the credential during the coronavirus closures.
The federal government had refused to give an extension in recent months, even as it was clear that many states were struggling to issue the credential. It was expected that starting Oct. 1, every U.S. air traveler would be required to present a Real-ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification, such as a U.S. passport, to board a domestic flight as the last phase of implementation of the law.
Trump’s announcement was also welcomed by the travel industry. Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association, said the extension of the deadline “is clearly the wise course of action at this juncture.”
The group had asked the Department of Homeland Security to delay the requirement until the economic environment improves and it can ensure that access to air travel will not be negatively affected once enforcement begins.
“The already difficult task of bringing the country closer to REAL ID compliance is now clearly impossible due to the coronavirus crisis,” Dow said in a statement. “Clearly the administration understands that the economic damage of coronavirus is already massive, and as we move toward a recovery phase it would be terrible if the REAL ID deadline hits and creates yet another obstacle to people traveling. To get this economy moving again, people need to be able to move again.”