Beginning October 1, 2021, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, photo ID card, or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board a domestic commercial flight or enter a federal building or military installation that requires ID.
REAL IDs are now available to Pennsylvanians who want them. This guide will help you decide if you need a REAL ID, and provide information on what documents you will need and steps you can take to get an optional REAL ID.
Customers may bring their REAL ID documentation into any PennDOT driver license center for pre-verification. Then, when REAL IDs are available in March 2019, customers can apply for their REAL ID online — no need to come back to the driver license center! To learn more about what documents you’ll need to present, visit our REAL ID Document Check page.
The chart below shows the difference between a standard ID or driver’s license, and a REAL ID:
|Standard ID or Driver’s License||REAL ID ID or Driver’s License|
|Driving (DL only)||✔️||✔️|
|General Identification Purposes||✔️||✔️|
|Boarding a Domestic (U.S.) Flight after October 1, 2020||✖️||✔️|
|Entering a Federal Facility (that requires ID) or Military Base||✖️||✔️|
Updated December 19, 2018
As you know, PennDOT customers who received their FIRST learner’s permit, driver’s license or photo ID AFTER September 2003 have been able to apply online for REAL ID pre-verification on PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.penngot.gov/REALID, since March 2018.
Customers who received their initial product BEFORE September 2003 may now also pre-verify by bringing their required REAL ID documents for verification to any PennDOT Driver License Center. PennDOT staff will image the documents to the customer’s record, and when REAL IDs are available in March 2019, the customer can opt into the REAL ID program online. The customer’s REAL ID product will be sent through the mail, eliminating any need for them to visit a driver license center.
Online messengers for PennDOT may continue to guide customers who received their first product AFTER September 2003 through the online pre-verification process. Customers who wish to pre-verify for REAL ID and received their first product BEFORE September 2003 must visit a PennDOT Driver License Center with the required documentation to pre-verify in person. For additional information about REAL ID in Pennsylvania, please visit www.penngot.gov/REALID.
Since Act 3 of 2017 was passed in May of this year, planning the deployment of REAL ID has been a key operational focus for PennDOT. PennDOT has committed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that REAL ID-compliant products will be available to customers by spring 2019. The following is an update on our progress to this point.
Required Documents to Receive a REAL ID Product:
REAL ID regulations require that for a customer to be issued a REAL ID-compliant product, PennDOT must verify the following documents:
- Proof of Identity (Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal or valid U.S. Passport)
- Proof of Social Security Number (Social security card)
- Proof of all Legal Name Changes (Marriage license or court order issued by your county’s family court)
- Two Proofs of Current, Physical PA Address (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)
PennDOT’s approach to issuing REAL ID products has the customer at the forefront, both those who want to opt-in to REAL ID and those that decide not to opt-in. As such PennDOT has devised a phased approach that emphasizes a streamlined process, while continuing to meet DHS requirements. This streamlined process allows for pre-vetting of documents as a customer choice before REAL ID products are in production.
Phase 1: Post-Legal Presence Customers
Since Pennsylvania’s legal presence law went into effect in September 2003, PennDOT has kept microfilm until 2007 and electronic images thereafter of the documents presented by the customer as part of proving legal presence. Customers who received their first PA driver’s license or ID card AFTER September 2003 (approximately 3.5M customers) are considered Phase 1 customers. Beginning in March 2018, these customers will receive a postcard instructing them to visit PennDOT’s website to receive additional information about their option to receive a REAL ID product, if they choose to do so. Customers may also call PennDOT’s call center or visit an Online Messenger for assistance. The customer (or their agent) will request that PennDOT confirm the customer’s documents needed to issue a REAL ID product are on file. Once verified, PennDOT will mark the customer’s record as “verified.” After REAL ID products are available in the spring of 2019, the customer will be able to opt into the REAL ID program. Once payment is received The REAL ID product will be sent to the customer through the US Postal Service and will be received in 7-10 days. This process will eliminate any need for a customer who has received their initial DL or ID post-legal presence to visit a Driver License Center.
Phase 2: Pre-Legal Presence Customers
The remaining 65% of PennDOT’s customers received their initial product BEFORE September 2003, meaning that for those customers who want to opt-in, PennDOT does not have their required REAL ID documents on file. Phase 2 customers will need to be verified in person. PennDOT’s existing 71 Driver’s License Centers will be equipped to verify these documents beginning in September 2018. This subset of customers will also receive a postcard beginning in September 2018, encouraging them to first visit PennDOT’s website to receive additional information about opting into REAL ID. We want customers to be prepared before they come to a driver license center by encouraging them to acquire all the needed documents in advance of their visit. Customers may also call PennDOT’s call center or visit an Online Messenger for assistance, but will need to visit a driver license center to have their documents verified and imaged. Once verified, PennDOT will mark the customer’s record as “verified.” After REAL ID products are available in the spring of 2019, the customer will be able to opt into the REAL ID program. Once payment is received, the customer’s REAL ID product will be mailed to them, or they may visit one of the designated REAL ID Centers for the REAL ID product to be issued over the counter.
Post REAL ID Deployment
Fee and REAL ID Product Expiration
As noted in the August 25 legislative report, PennDOT will assess a one-time fee that is currently being finalized. Customers will pay the one-time fee, plus a renewal fee (current renewal fee is $30.50 for a four-year non-commercial driver’s license or a photo ID, $50.50 if the customer has a Class M). The expiration date of their initial REAL ID product will include any time remaining on their existing non-REAL ID product, plus an additional four (or in some cases, two) years*. Structuring the expiration date this way means that the customer won’t “lose” time that they’ve already paid for. After the initial REAL ID product expires, the customer will pay no additional fee, beyond regular renewal fees, to renew a REAL ID product.
*Non-U.S. Citizens applying for a REAL ID will pay the one-time REAL ID fee plus the applicable duplicate fee and be issued a duplicate product and keep the current expiration date, which corresponds with their legal presence expiration date. CDL holders applying for a REAL ID will also have the option of purchasing a duplicate product, in lieu of renewing their CDL and paying all the applicable commercial fees. Customer age 65 and older may apply for a two-year Driver’s license product.
Customer Options for Issuance Post-Deployment
When the REAL ID products are available in the spring of 2019 customers who opt-in for a REAL ID product and qualified as post legal presence will receive their REAL ID product in the mail. Customers who are required to present their documents in person for verification, and have not gone through the pre-verification process described earlier will have two options for obtaining their REAL ID products once available, as outlined below.
Option 1: REAL ID Issuance at Intake-Only Locations (Existing Driver License Centers)
Current PA Driver’s License or ID Holders
The 71 existing Driver License Centers do not meet DHS regulations for the issuance of REAL ID products over the counter. However, PennDOT will make upgrades to the existing Driver License Centers to allow for required documents to be verified and imaged. In addition, five of the 71 sites will be retrofitted to allow over the counter issuance of REAL ID products (See option 2 below). When a customer visits one of the sites not retrofitted, the PennDOT staff will verify and image the required documentation for REAL ID and will collect the one-time REAL ID fee, plus a renewal fee. The new expiration date will include any remaining time on the existing DL or ID plus an additional four (or in some cases, two) years*. The customer will be given a system-generated receipt outlining their new expiration date. PennDOT will add a REAL ID indicator to the DL/ID record, and use the customers photo on file (from their most recent renewal) for product update. After the record is updated and all fees paid, the record will be sent in an overnight batch to our DL/ID vendor for Central Issuance. The REAL ID product will be sent to the customer through the US Postal Service and will be received in 7-10 days.
*Non-U.S. Citizens applying for a REAL ID will pay the one-time REAL ID fee plus the applicable duplicate fee and be issued a duplicate product and keep the current expiration date, which corresponds with their legal presence expiration date. CDL holders applying for a REAL ID will also have the option of purchasing a duplicate product, in lieu of renewing their CDL and paying all the applicable commercial fees. Customers age 65 and older may apply for a two-year Driver’s license product. 3
Out-of-State Transfers and REAL ID Initial Issuance
The base REAL ID documentation process will be the same for new customers as described above, but PennDOT will obtain an initial photo for product issuance. Once the driving record has been established, the customer will be given a system-generated receipt/driving document and proceed to the in-house Photo License Center to have their initial photo taken. For a REAL ID product, the customer will not receive the DL or ID over the counter, instead the photo and record information will be sent through the overnight batch process for Central Issuance to the customer. The REAL ID product will be sent to the customer through the US Postal Service and will be received in 7-10 days.
Option 2: REAL ID Issuance at REAL ID Centers
The documentation process will be the same as described above, however, instead of the REAL ID product being issued centrally, the customer will receive their REAL ID product over-the-counter at the time of service. There will be up to 13 REAL ID Centers.
PennDOT has developed a robust communications plan for REAL ID, and has been working closely with Commonwealth Media Services (CMS) to strategize its deployment. Because REAL ID has a wide-reaching customer impact, clear and concise communication will be critical through every step of implementation.
The first phase of messaging regarding REAL ID is centered on encouraging customers to prepare the required documents as early as possible, especially if they need to get replacement documents. The first of these messages will be shared on social media beginning on December 1, and PennDOT would greatly appreciate any help legislators would be willing to give in sharing that message on their own social media channels.
Additional upcoming communications milestones include the March and September postcard mailings to current customers, and the first round of paid media, which is currently scheduled to begin April 2018. PennDOT will ensure that legislators and their staffs are given a “heads-up” before any major communication on REAL ID is issued publicly.
- December 1, 2017: First round of social media messaging encouraging customers to prepare their documents
- January 22, 2018: DHS REAL ID aircraft enforcement for jurisdictions without a current extension
- March 2018: Postcard mailing to Phase 1 (Post-Legal Presence) customers
- April 2018: First round of paid media begins
- May 20, 2018: State-to-State Deployment State to State (or S2S) is a verification service that serves as a means for states to electronically check with all other participating states to determine if the applicant currently holds a driver license or identification card in another state.
- September 2018:
- Postcard mailing to Phase 2 (Pre-Legal Presence) customers
- Driver License Centers are fully equipped to verify and image required REAL ID documents
- PennDOT applies for additional REAL ID enforcement extension with DHS
- Postcard mailing to Phase 2 (Pre-Legal Presence) customers
- October 10, 2018: Current DHS REAL ID enforcement extension expires.
- Spring 2019:
- Full REAL ID product deployment
- All additional REAL ID locations (new and retrofit) open for business
- PennDOT will submit compliance request to DHS
- October 1, 2020: DHS REAL ID enforcement
PennDOT has designed REAL ID deployment to give customers options on acquiring a REAL ID product. As we move forward, we expect there will be some updates to processes outlined above, and we are fully committed to ensuring the legislature is kept abreast of any changes to ensure you can keep your constituents informed.
Information from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
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.
On May 26, 2017, Gov. Wolf signed SB 133 (Act 3 of 2017), which will allow Pennsylvania to issue REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards, which can be used to access airports and federal facilities.
Pennsylvania is under a REAL ID enforcement extension until October 18, 2018, which means that Pennsylvania residents will not face access issues when entering federal facilities through that date.
Under the federal REAL ID Act, beginning January 22, 2018, residents in states which have not come into compliance with federal requirements or obtained an extension will need to show an alternative form of identification such as a passport at airports and when accessing federal buildings and military bases.
PennDOT will continue to request extensions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until REAL ID products are available for residents. Under Act 3, no Pennsylvania resident will be required to get a REAL ID-compliant driver license or identification card, but residents who choose to do so will be able to use those forms of identification when the new federal requirements go into effect.
System, building infrastructure and process changes will be necessary for Pennsylvania to issue REAL ID-compliant products. Preliminary work on REAL ID has begun, and PennDOT estimates REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards will be available at the customer’s option in 2019. This will allow ample time for customers who want a REAL ID product to obtain one before the final DHS effective date of October 1, 2020.
Questions about what this means for you? Check out our REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions.
For additional information on REAL ID, please visit the Department of Homeland Security website.