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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.

Pennsylvania does not currently meet these federal standards due to the passage, by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, of Act 38 of 2012, which bars the Governor and PennDOT from participating in REAL ID.

Pennsylvania has been granted an extension until June 6, 2017 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

While residents will not need an alternative form of federally approved identification for air travel until January 22, 2018, they will need a federally-approved form of identification to access federal buildings, nuclear power plants and military bases beginning on June 7, 2017, unless another extension is granted by DHS.

PennDOT has always focused on providing a secure driver’s license and supporting process with an emphasis on continuous improvement.  In large measure, PennDOT is out of compliance for limited technical reasons and because existing state law bars PennDOT from fully complying. 

The federal REAL ID Act contains access restrictions phased in over a period time for holders of non-REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards (unless a state has been issued an extension). Phase 1, 2, and 3 have previously been initiated by DHS and will become effective for citizens of the Commonwealth on June 7, 2017.  Based on information supplied by DHS in 2016 the following milestone enforcement dates have or will occur.

  • Phase 1 – Restricted areas (i.e. areas accessible by agency personnel, contractors and their guests) for DHS’s Nebraska Avenue Complex headquarters.
    Full Enforcement – April 21, 2014 - Enforced for Commonwealth DL and ID holders beginning June 7, 2017.

  • Phase 2 – Restricted areas for all Federal facilities and nuclear power plants.
    Full Enforcement – July 21, 2014 - Enforced for Commonwealth DL and ID holders beginning June 7, 2017.

  • Phase 3 – Semi-restricted areas (i.e. areas available to the general public but subject to ID based access control) for most Federal facilities.  Access to Federal facilities will continue to be allowed for purposes of applying for or receiving Federal benefits.
    • Phase 3a- Facility security Levels 1 and 2 – January 19, 2015 - Enforced for Commonwealth DL and ID holders beginning June 7, 2017.
    • Phase 3b- Facility Security Levels 3, 4 and 5 October 10, 2015 - Enforced for Commonwealth DL and ID holders beginning June 7, 2017.

  • Phase 4 – Boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.
    • Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct outreach to educate the traveling public about the timeline below, and continue engagements with states to encourage compliance with REAL ID standards.
    • Starting July 15, 2016, TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, will begin to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.
    • Starting December 15, 2016, TSA will expand outreach at its airport checkpoints through signage, handouts, and other methods.
    • Starting January 22, 2018, Passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.  Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will still be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards.
    • Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.


For additional information on REAL ID, please visit the Department of Homeland Security website.