After weeks of confusion and concern over whether their driver’s licenses would allow them to enter federal facilities or board domestic flights, residents of five U.S. states can breathe a sigh of relief.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially announced this week that non-REAL ID Act driver’s licenses would still be acceptable forms of identification until January 28, 2018.
The timeline gives state governments in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington State a de facto deadline extension of about 2 years to adhere to the legislation.
The reprieve comes after a panicked few weeks leading up to the new year, when the REAL ID Act was originally intended to launch nationwide. Despite being passed in 2005, the original bill gave states 10 years to adapt to its new requirements.
Still, by January 1, 2016, only 23 states had been deemed fully compliant with the legislation. Twenty-two states had already been granted extensions, but the five holdouts had been deigned “noncompliant” for a variety of reasons.
The law calls for including more heightened security measures in the licensing process, like equipping the cards with “machine readable” technology that would store the user’s personal information and requiring residents to show more proof of identity when applying for a license.
Without a REAL ID-approved license or other forms of acceptable identification, such as a U.S. passport, an individual would not be able to board a domestic flight or enter some federal facilities.
According to the government, the act is meant as a safety measure for domestic flights and government agencies. Since a license is all that is needed to get on board or enter those buildings, the document should be more secure, the DHS has said.
But the legislation is not without its critics, who worry about the law leading to national ID cards and putting the personal details of millions of U.S. citizens in jeopardy by storing them all in the same database attached to the licenses.
While each of the five holdout states had at one point balked at adopting the measure due to such concerns—which caused them to ultimately be labeled “non-compliant”—the 2018 timeframe gives them a new lease on the situation, with most pledging to reform to the REAL ID Act by that time.