A self check-in kiosk at the Scarborough branch of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Just five months before the latest Real ID deadline, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has again extended when travelers will need to have a federally mandated identification card for domestic flights.

The federal agency announced Monday it would push back the deadline to May 5, 2025, two years after the most recent May 3, 2023, deadline. The agency has already extended its enforcement date multiple times.

Congress created the Real ID program in 2005 to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The change came following a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission.

But states, including Maine, got postponements, saying they weren’t ready for the new rules. Maine began issuing Real ID’s in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and the federal government delayed enforcing the Real ID requirement.

The 24-month extension will address “the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card” after that process was “significantly hindered” by licensing backlogs from the pandemic, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. Many states’ identification card agencies extended expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards due to the pandemic, or shifted to appointment-only availability, which affected operations.

“This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement Monday. “DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible.”

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Under the latest update, every traveler 18 or older will need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card – or another Transportation Security Administration-acceptable form of identification – to get through airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel beginning May 7, 2025.

Real ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card.

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