Real ID enforcement deadline pushed back 1 year due to coronavirus pandemic

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The deadline to obtain a REAL ID, federally mandated identification that will be needed for passengers to board aircraft, will be extended until October 2021— a year past the current deadline, according to Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

“The federal state and local response to the spread of #coronavirus here in the US necessitates a delay in this deadline,” Wolf announced on Twitter Thursday.

Before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the US, states were preparing to issue residents “REAL ID-compliant” driver’s licenses or identification by the October 1 deadline.

As of last month, only about 35% of US IDs complied with the REAL ID Act, a post-9/11 law that establishes security standards for licenses. Once in effect, travelers flying commercially in the US will need to have a REAL ID, which is marked by a star on the top of the card.

Even before the outbreak, it was unlikely that all states would meet the deadline. Last month, Wolf told lawmakers that the prospect of all states being able to issue their constituents a REAL ID by October 2020 was “probably fairly small.”

The Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for the identification program, is evaluating options regarding the new deadline, a department official told CNN.

During this closure, ALEA’s Driver License personnel will be making contact with customers who scheduled appointments for services prior to the pandemic.

ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor said, “We began modifying the Driver License Division operations Monday, March 16, and continued to serve customers on a more limited basis to reduce potential exposure to the virus. Starting today, March 26, ALEA Driver License offices will close all public access, and staff will remain on-site to answer phones and assist with online services.  As always, we are dedicated to serving the citizens of this state, but we must make the health and safety of our customers and our personnel a priority. This deadline extension should relieve some of the wait time at ALEA’s DL offices to obtain a STAR ID during the next several months.”

Please see below a summary of what services Alabama citizens will or will not be able to do at this time:  

Customers will NOT be able to:

  • Obtain first-time issuance of DL/CDL or ID card
  • Take knowledge test (Learner’s License, Motorcycle, CDL)
  • Take road test
  • Transfer out-of-state license
  • Obtain foreign national/renewal
  • Register vessel – first-time registration or transfer
  • Obtain Ignition Interlock License

 Customers will be able to:

  • Renew DL/CDL/ID online
  • Renew by mail – for Alabama drivers out of state for military, employment, missionary work, under a physician’s care or other issues on a case-by-case basis
  • Request a hearing online or by mail/fax. We will not take any law enforcement actions until hearing can be held.
  • Change address by mail/email/fax. Address change document available online.
  • Change name by mail/email. Contact ALEA DL for instructions.
  • Renew hardship license
  • Have license reinstated by mail/email/phone. May use credit card.
  • Order MVR (driver history) by mail/email/phone. May use credit card.
  • Order crash reports by mail/email/phone. May use credit card.
  • Submit medical cards by fax/email
  • Submit medical unit forms – fax/email
  • Handle Mandatory Liability Insurance – online/mail
  • Renew vessel registration online

Once ALEA’s Driver License Division resumes normal operations, customers may schedule an appointment on the agency’s website to obtain a STAR ID and conduct other driver license business.

Secretary Taylor would like to remind the public of the 60-day grace period for driver licenses (Code of Alabama, 32-6-1),  but customers who would like to renew during the pandemic are encouraged to do so online.

Individuals whose driver licenses must be reinstated may contact the Driver License Division to handle it by phone.    

For more information on STAR ID, online renewals and other services, and the latest on Driver License Division office closures, please visit www.alea.gov.

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