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Frequently Asked Questions

Updated June 13, 2018

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 it becomes available.

If you received a postcard from PennDOT inviting you to apply for REAL ID Pre-Verification online, visit our pre-verification page.

What is REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act is a federal law passed by Congress after Sept. 11, 2001, 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 for the REAL ID Act until October 10, 2018. What does this mean?

The extension means that current PennDOT-issued driver's licenses and identification cards can be used to enter federal facilities and board domestic commercial flights through October 10, 2018. PennDOT will continue to seek additional extensions until being fully compliant with the REAL ID 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 as long as an extension is in place. PennDOT's current extension lasts until October 10, 2018. 

What happens after 2020?

Beginning October 1, 2020, 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 has developed 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 Act 3 of 2017 repealed this prior legislation and allowed PennDOT to seek REAL ID compliance. 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 ID 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, U.S. 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 October 1, 2020

If you want to use your Pennsylvania driver's license or photo ID as identification for these purposes, you may want to consider getting a REAL ID when they're available. Our REAL ID online wizard may help you decide if and when to get a REAL ID.

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 U.S. Passport or U.S. 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 after October 1, 2020, 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.)
  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 ✖️ ✔️

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

The REAL ID license and ID card will be available at the customer's option in spring 2019. 

How much will the REAL ID cost?

You will pay a one-time fee of $30, plus a renewal fee (current renewal fee is $30.50 for a four-year non-commercial driver’s license or a photo ID). The expiration date of the initial REAL ID product will include any time remaining on your current license or ID card, plus an additional four years, unless you are is over 65 and have a two-year license. This expiration date structure 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.

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. However, if you choose to get a REAL ID when they are available, your REAL ID expiration date will reflect any remaining time on your current license, plus four years - you will not "lose" any time that you've already paid for. 

Will my REAL ID license or ID card look different?

The visible difference will be that a REAL ID-compliant product will be marked with a gold star. REAL ID products are produced using the same security features as standard-issued products.

What documents will I need to obtain a REAL ID?

When you apply for a REAL ID (which will not be available until 2019), U.S. citizens will need to present original versions or certified copies (if applicable) of the following documents, per federal regulations. These documents can be taken to any PennDOT Driver License Center beginning in September 2018:

  • Proof of Identity
    • Examples: Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal or valid U.S. Passport
  • Proof of Social Security Number
    • Example: Social security card (cannot be laminated or sealed in plastic)
      *Please note that the name on your social security card MUST match the name on your current license or ID card
  • Proof of all Legal Name Changes
    • Examples: Marriage certificate 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 U.S. Passport or U.S. 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
For more information about documents required for REAL ID and for documentation requirements for non-U.S. citizens, visit our REAL ID Document Check page.

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 certificate 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 (PDF) 

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

TSA does not currenty require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.

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?

REAL IDs will not be available in Pennsylvania until spring 2019. All Pennsylvania licenses and identification cards are currently acceptable for boarding commercial aircraft and entering federal facilities. 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 continue to 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.