A few years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks took place, federal lawmakers approved the Real ID Act. Seventeen years after those attacks, New Jersey still isn't compliant.

The measure, which calls for stricter requirements for proof of residency in the United States in order to qualify for a driver’s license, was originally supposed to take effect nine yars ago, but it has been delayed repeatedly, as different states scrambled to update their license technology procedures.

The new deadline for all states to become Real ID compliant is October 1, 2020.

If a state is not Real ID compliant, the driver’s license it issues to its residents will no longer be considered a valid form of identification to board a commercial airline or enter a federal building.

While New Jersey is one of several states that has been granted a series of one-year Real ID extensions to fine-tune its system, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website indicates that extension will officially expire in about three weeks, on October 10, 2018.

According to Sue Fulton, the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, Garden State residents should not be worried about this.

“Not only can I assure you we’ve been making good progress, but we meet regularly with the Department of Homeland Security on our progress, they have been satisfied," she said.

She said the state has officially requested another extension and she fully expects Homeland Security officials to grant that extension any day now, certainly before the Oct. 10 deadline.

Fulton pointed out the system that’s being used, where states are granted extensions for only a year at a time, gives the Department of Homeland Security a way to make sure it is satisfied with the progress that’s being made moving toward the Real ID deadline of October 1, 2020, but DHS has been satisfied with the Jersey’s efforts to prepare for the New system .

“New Jerseyans will continue to be able to use their driver license to travel on commercial aircraft, on an ongoing basis, up until October 1 of 2020," she said.

She said when the Real ID program is ready to be rolled out sometime next spring, “we’re going to have a massive communications effort so that people will be able to upgrade to the Real ID before that October of 2020 date.”

She said the MVC is working on a number of initiatives “that are going to reduce the volume in our Motor Vehicle agencies, so we make room for the additional people who are going to want to upgrade to Real ID.”

So why hasn’t the DHS website been upgraded already, or at least modified to explain another one-year extension is expected to be forthcoming?

Fulton said the Homeland Security officials MVC has worked with “would very much like this to be a more transparent process, but it goes through levels and at the end of the day the head of Homeland Security makes these decisions.”

“The officials that are working directly with us hear us, but at the end of the day it’s their call," Fulton said.

When New Jersey 101.5 news asked a DHS spokesperson why there is no explanation on the website for what is going on, the individual declined to comment, but noted so far New Jersey has been making satisfactory progress toward Real ID compliance.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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