Department of Homeland Security has postponed the enforcement date for REAL ID from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration.

PennDOT has implemented a variety of operational changes. Details about those changes and other operational changes can be found here.

Beginning May 3, 2023, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board a domestic commercial flight, enter a military installation, and enter certain federal buildings that require ID.

REAL IDs are now available to all Pennsylvanians. This guide provides information on what documents you will need and steps you can take to obtain a REAL ID.

The REAL ID Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, requires changes to state standards, procedures and requirements for the issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards, if they are to be accepted as identity documents by the federal government. This page is updated frequently – please check back often for additional information as is becomes available.

What is REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act is a federal law passed by Congress after 9/11 that establishes specific minimum federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted for certain federal purposes, like entering a federal building or boarding a domestic commercial flight.

Pennsylvania has been granted an extension to the REAL ID Act through October 10, 2017. What does that mean?

The extension means that current PennDOT-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards can be used to enter federal facilities through that date. PennDOT plans to submit an additional extension request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before October 10, 2017. Extensions are at the sole discretion of DHS. Pennsylvania will continue applying for REAL ID extensions until becoming fully compliant with the Act.

Can I board a plane with the license I have now?

Yes. Current PennDOT-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards will remain acceptable identification for boarding domestic commercial flights through at least January 22, 2018.

What happens after January 22, 2018?

PennDOT plans to submit a request to DHS for an extension until October 1, 2020, the date on which no more extensions will be granted and full implementation of REAL ID occurs.  Assuming DHS grants an extension, Pennsylvania residents will still be able to use their current driver’s license or identification card to board domestic commercial flights. Again, extensions are at the sole discretion of DHS.

What happens after 2023?

Beginning May 3, 2023, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant license, identification card or an acceptable alternative identification as approved by TSA to board domestic commercial flights or enter a federal facility without a secondary form of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved identification.

What is PennDOT’s plan to ensure that Pennsylvania is compliant with REAL ID regulations?

PennDOT is working to develop a deployment plan that will make REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards available to Pennsylvania residents by Spring 2019.

Why did PennDOT wait so long to begin the REAL ID process?

Until May 2017, Pennsylvania law prohibited PennDOT from complying with the federal REAL ID Act. Act 3 of 2017 repealed this prior legislation and allowed PennDOT to seek REAL ID compliance. Preliminary work has begun and PennDOT anticipates that REAL ID-compliant documents will be available at the customer’s option by Spring 2019. 

I just renewed my license and got the newly-designed version. Is this a REAL ID?

No. Periodic design and security updates are standard business practice for PennDOT, and it was in the best interest of our customers to continue that important work despite prior legislation prohibiting REAL ID compliance.

Will the non-REAL ID driver’s license or identification card be less secure?

No. While processes and procedures required by DHS to issue a REAL ID card differ from standard-issued cards, the non-REAL ID cards will be produced using the same security features.

Why would I want a REAL ID?

A federally accepted identification (whether it’s a Pennsylvania REAL ID driver’s license or identification card, US Passport/Passport Card, military ID, etc.) must be used as your identification to board a commercial flight or visit a secure federal building on and after May 3, 2023.

Do I have to get a REAL ID?

No, REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents. You will be able to get either a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card, or a standard driver’s license or identification card. If you have a valid US Passport or US Passport Card, military ID, or another federally approved identification, you may use this as your form of identification to pass a TSA checkpoint at airports nationwide and visit a secure federal building or military installations at any time.
If you know you will not be boarding a commercial flight or visiting a secure federal facility or military base, you do not need a REAL ID.
You do not need a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card to do any of the following:

  • Drive
  • Vote
  • Apply for or receive federal benefits for which you are entitled (Veterans’ Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.)
  • Enter a federal facility that does not require an ID (i.e. a post office)
  • Access a hospital or receive life-saving services
  • Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations (serve on a federal jury, testify in federal court, etc.)

When can I get the REAL ID license or ID card?

The REAL ID license and ID card will be available to customers in Spring 2019. System, building infrastructure and process changes will be necessary for Pennsylvania to issue REAL ID-compliant cards.

How much will a REAL ID cost?

There will be a one-time fee at the time of issuance to obtain a REAL ID. The fee amount has not yet been determined. Customers with REAL IDs will pay the standard renewal fee – there is no additional fee to renew a REAL ID.

If my driver’s license expires before REAL IDs are available, do I have to pay to renew my license and pay again to get a REAL ID?

Yes. You must renew your driver’s license when it expires – do not drive with an expired license. It will be optional and voluntary to change your current license to a REAL ID.

Will my REAL ID license or photo ID look different?

The visible difference will be that a REAL ID-compliant product will be marked with a gold star.

What documents will I need to obtain a REAL ID?

When you apply for a REAL ID (which will not be available until 2019), you will need to present original versions or certified copies of the following documents, per federal regulations:

  • Proof of Identity
    • Examples:  Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal or valid US Passport
  • Proof of Social Security Number
    • Examples:  Social security card or W-2 Form that has your social security number and name and your employer’s name
    • *Please note that social security card cannot be laminated or sealed in plastic.
  • Proof of all Legal Name Changes
    • Examples:  Marriage license or court order issued by your county’s family court
    • *Please note: You must show a complete name change history that links your birth certificate name to your current name. If you have a valid US Passport or US Passport Card with your legal name, you may use that as your name change document.
  • Two Proofs of Current, Physical PA Address
    • Examples:  Current, unexpired PA license or ID and a no more than 90-day-old bank statement or utility bill with the same name and address

I don’t have my birth certificate. What do I do?

If you do not have your birth certificate in your possession, you need to contact your state or county Department of Health office in the state of your birth and request an original or certified copy. Some states may take up to six months to process duplicate birth certificates, so it is advisable to begin this process right away.

What if my name, date of birth or gender designation is different from what is on my birth certificate or legal status document?

If your current legal name, date of birth or gender designation is different from the information on your birth certificate or legal status document, you must show legal proof of the change. Acceptable documents supporting a change include:

  • Name change or date of birth:
  • Marriage license or divorce decree
  • Court order approving a change of legal name or date of birth
  • Original or certified copy of an amended birth certificate showing a change of name
  • Gender designation:
  • A certified, amended birth certificate with a raised seal
  • A completed DL-32 form signed by a physician

Will my child need a REAL ID to board a plane?

The TSA does not currently require children under 18 to have a REAL ID when flying with an adult who has a REAL ID.

Where can I learn more about REAL ID?

To learn more about REAL ID, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website.

Do I need to worry about this now?

All Pennsylvania licenses and identification cards are currently acceptable for REAL ID purposes, however, PennDOT advises customers who may want to obtain a REAL ID to get their required documents in order as soon as possible. PennDOT will communicate any new information about REAL ID with customers as soon as it becomes available.

If you already have a U.S. Passport or Passport Card and want a REAL ID, we recommend that you wait until your next renewal to obtain one and avoid the initial rush.