Kentucky Politics

Kentuckians will have more time to get a Real ID, which will be necessary to board domestic flights and enter federal facilities like military bases.

The advanced drivers’ licenses were scheduled to be required on Oct. 1 of this year, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has now extended the deadline until May 3, 2023.

Gov. Andy Beshear said the extension will give the state’s licensing agencies time to catch up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are rolling out a modern, efficient network of KYTC Driver Licensing Regional Offices to issue all Real ID-compliant licenses and identification cards. These offices have and continue to operate at limited capacity to meet social distancing and other ‘Healthy at Work’ requirements,” Beshear said.

Kentucky has been scrambling to implement the program created by Congress in the 2005 Real ID Act, which requires states to centralize their driver’s licensing systems and improve security.

The state has struggled to fulfill the requirements, experiencing several setbacks like a veto from former Gov. Matt Bevin and the scrapping of a plan to issue the IDs through local circuit clerks.

The state plans to issue the IDs through regional offices operated by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and so far 20 counties have already planned to stop in-person driver licensing services by the end of May.

Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray said the state will continue to transition to regional centers ahead of the 2023 deadline.

“The extension can be viewed as a needed grace period,” Gray said. “But our advice to drivers is still the same: If you want a Real ID, make a plan now.”

The bottom line is that starting on May 3, 2023, anyone who wants to travel by air or enter a federal facility will need a Real ID driver’s license or ID card, unless they have another acceptable form of identification like a passport.

People who don’t want to travel by air or enter federal facilities will still be able to use conventional drivers’ licenses to drive, buy alcohol, gamble and other age-related activities.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.