The U.S. Virgin Islands and 26 other states and territories were facing deadlines this year to comply with the federal REAL ID Act, but the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday it is giving everyone another two years to bring their drivers license technology into compliance.
Passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005, the Real ID Act sets up standards for the issuance of drivers licenses and identification cards to safeguard against fraud and identity theft. The final rules were put in place in 2008, with a 2009 initial deadline. The Virgin Islands and most states missed the deadline and there have been several extensions.
As of last week, 27 states had extensions until later this year, while the USVI, Guam and the Northern Marianas had extensions under review and faced a Jan. 10, 2016 deadline. On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that all states are getting a two-year extension.
" Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel," Johnson said in a statement. "Until Jan. 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel. Passengers can also continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA (such as a passport or passport card, global entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID)," he said.
Delegate Stacey Plaskett hailed the decision in a statement Tuesday.
"Our office has had several meetings and has been in contact with DHS to ensure the territory received additional time to come in compliance," Plaskett said. "This extension will allow Virgin Islanders, who use their locally issued driver’s license as their primary form of identification, the ability to continue using that form of identification to travel and access federal facilities in the country," she said.
The territory has received $2.3 million in federal grants to implement the plan. (See Related Links below)
Two years ago, Jerris Browne, then the V.I. Bureau of Motor Vehicles director, projected compliance by February 2014. But in February 2015, BMV Director Lawrence Olive told the V.I. Legislature the system is not ready and there is a dispute with the contractor, BIZVI, over some of the final details. Later in the year, Olive told the Legislature that bringing the system into compliance with the Real ID Act was a major goal for 2016.