U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano decided Friday to extend the compliance deadline for the REAL ID Act to May 2011.
The extension means that South Carolina driver's licenses and identification cards will continue to be legitimate ID to enter federal buildings and board airplanes.
The state, along with 12 others, has passed a law refusing to comply with the REAL ID Act, because the governor and legislators see it as an invasion of privacy and an unnecessary expense.
Gov. Mark Sanford urged Napolitano to grant the extension, noting that the state's ID is among the most secure in the nation. South Carolina-issued IDs already meet 90 percent of REAL ID requirements, far ahead of schedule, he said.
Without the extension, state IDs would not have been acceptable to enter federal buildings or fly after Jan. 1. Residents would have had to have gone through a secondary screening process.
The REAL ID is a recommendation by the commission that studied the 2001 terrorist attacks. Congress is considering replacing the REAL ID Act with a new law, the PASS ID, that's intended to make sure only legitimate identification cards are issued.
"Given the federal government's deadline has now been extended, we feel there is a greater likelihood that our and many other states' concerns about REAL ID being too costly a mandate and an infringement on citizens' constitutional liberties will be fully addressed," Sanford said in a statement Friday. "We've said consistently that the federal government forcing REAL ID, or its progeny PASS ID, onto the states is neither fully safe nor financially sound - precisely why South Carolina and around a dozen other states have laws on the books prohibiting compliance with REAL ID."