“Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity. DHS will publish an interim final rule in the coming days to effectuate this enforcement date change.” Do you remember exactly what you were doing when you first heard about the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001? It’s one of those catastrophic “where were you when” moments that will stick in your mind for the rest of time. Since that terrible day, the U.S. government has been beefing up airport security and finding new ways to keep everyone safe. If you’ve traveled by plane over the past decade, you know how long those security lines can be. Tap or click for pro tips on how to get through security faster. Well, there’s another new security feature being implemented. If you don’t comply, you won’t be able to step onto an airplane. The good news is you have some time to take action.

Here’s the backstory

Have you ever heard of a REAL ID? You should have, it’s been in the works for years. The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005, implementing recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The purpose is to set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. RELATED: 3 clever safety tricks to use when you travel In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act. Now, here’s where you’ll want to pay close attention. If you don’t have a REAL ID by May 3, 2023, you won’t be able to board a plane. Not only that but you could be impacted in other areas. You will need a REAL ID to access federal buildings, enter nuclear power plants and board airplanes.

What if you don’t have a REAL ID?

Here is where things get serious. It’s estimated that fewer than 50% of Americans have a REAL ID. That means millions of people will need to get one before it’s enforced. Even worse, some don’t even know the deadline is approaching. Can you imagine the chaos we might see at the deadline? Tons of people could be turned away from airport security trying to catch a flight. You may also like: Hackers are preying on coronavirus fears Speaking of chaos, think about how jam-packed your local DMV will be as we get closer to the deadline. Once people realize they need a REAL ID, they’ll be scrambling to get one. That’s why it’s a good idea to start the process now if you haven’t already. To find out how to get one in your state, visit the Homeland Security REAL ID page. Note: When you go to the DMV to get a REAL ID, you’ll need a valid form of identification: a passport or birth certificate, proof of your Social Security number and date of birth, and two items proving your home address/state residency. Typically, utility bills or other snail mail items will work for proving your address. Do you know if you have a REAL ID? A compliant REAL ID has a star symbol at the top of the card. If you don’t see the star, you don’t have a REAL ID. There is some good news, though. You can still get through airport security and fly if you have a passport, military ID or Global Entry card. But eventually, you’ll want to get a REAL ID — even if you have a passport. Better to do it now than wait until it’s too late.