With two-thirds of current driver’s licenses in the U.S. not Real ID-complaint, the Department of Homeland Security said that states can allow applicants to submit required documents for Real IDs electronically

The federal government has set an Oct. 1 deadline for airline passengers to have Real IDs if they choose to use a driver's license as ID at the airport. Real IDs meet security standards laid out in the Real ID Act of 2005.

DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf sent letters to state governors on Feb. 19 informing them that states may allow online submission of identity and lawful-status source documents through a secure electronic process, prior to an applicant’s in-person visit to their state’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

The move, he said, would “result in a faster, more streamlined process for DMVs and the American public.” 

The U.S. Travel Association, which has strongly advocated allowing for online Real ID applications, applauded the move, calling it a “a step forward in streamlining the compliance process while upholding the security requirements of the Real ID Act.” 

“However, the challenge remains that tens of millions of Americans do not yet possess Real ID-compliant identification, and we won’t solve this issue by pushing people to the DMV,” said executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes. 

“U.S. Travel testified before a Senate subcommittee last year that without significant policy changes, thousands of Americans could be turned away from the TSA checkpoint on Oct. 1,” she said. “Technology and security have advanced greatly in the nearly 15 years since Real ID was introduced, and we encourage DHS and Congress to pursue additional policy changes to facilitate Americans’ Real ID compliance.” 

The move comes less than a week after lawmakers introduced a bill to soften the impact of the Real ID deadline that includes a provision enabling online Real ID applications as well as allowing TSA Precheck membership to serve as a temporary alternative to a Real ID at domestic airports. 

Wolf said that the DHS had solicited ideas, solutions and proposals from the public, private sector, state governments, and relevant associations, in order to streamline the issuance of Real IDs. 

“While progress has been made, the real work is still ahead because approximately two-thirds of all licenses are presently not compliant with Real ID,” Wolf said. “Rest assured, our department will continue to examine other viable options to improve upon this process and continues doing everything it can to inform Americans on the requirement to obtain a Real ID before the full enforcement deadline later this year.”

Although nearly 100 million Americans have Real IDs, the DHS said, they represent only 34% of current identification cards. 

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