Soon, flying domestically or entering federal buildings will require an enhanced driver's license or REAL ID, and if you haven't gotten one yet, you might want to get on that.
New Yorkers now have until October 1, 2021 until the REAL ID is required for flying within the U.S. A REAL ID abides by a law passed in Congress in 2005 (at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission) to have minimum security standards for licenses to keep would-be terrorists from using fake IDs.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, New Yorkers had until October 1, 2020.
"The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. "Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts. States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs. This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their REAL ID. Extending the deadline will also allow the Department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the current health crisis concludes."
If you're wondering what the difference is between cards, it comes down to having more stringent proof of identity.
With the new IDs, you'll need utility bills or bank statements, a social security number and proof of residency status in order to obtain one.
The REAL ID, which has a star in the upper right-hand corner, allows the holder to board a domestic flight and enter a federal building, while the enhanced ID, which has an American flag in the bottom right corner, does all of that but also allows the holder to cross a U.S. border coming from Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean countries.
What does this mean for you right now?
A passport can work in lieu of a REAL ID, but if you still need a new license, you'll want to make an appointment at the DMV now. Lines are reportedly long with "unprecedented crowds" as it is right now, according to the New York Times.
In other words, if you don't have a passport and you plan on taking a trip to one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the USA for example, you'll need one asap (unless you want to travel the states via train).
There are no appointments available at the Midtown Manhattan DMV through May, but there are a few open days for others like the Lower Manhattan office and the Downtown Brooklyn office. The agency's website doesn't currently offer anything after May.
Before you go, make sure you have all the documentation you need so the process is seamless – you can find those here.
The good news is that REAL ID doesn't cost extra to get, just the regular fee (the enhanced ID is an additional $30), and they aren't mandatory—you are free to use a passport to travel within the U.S. instead and you don't need one to vote.