REAL ID Frequently Asked Questions

What is REAL ID?

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting, for official purposes, licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.

Pennsylvania has been granted an extension to the REAL ID Act through October 10, 2018. What does that 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.

What is Pennsylvania doing about REAL ID?

On May 26, 2017, Governor Wolf signed Act 3 of 2017 (SB133) into law, which did the following:

  • Repeals Act 38 of 2012, which prohibited any state agency from complying with REAL ID.

  • Creates a an Opt-in system, where Pennsylvanians can choose to get a standard-issued driver’s license or photo ID that DOES NOT comply with REAL ID, or a new driver’s license or photo ID that DOES comply with REAL ID.

  • Prohibits the Commonwealth from mandating REAL ID for any reason.

With the enactment of Act 3 of 2017, the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is currently in the process of working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement REAL ID. On August 25, 2017, PennDOT submitted an initial report to the General Assembly outlining the planned deployment and costs of REAL ID.

How will REAL ID affect Pennsylvania Residents?

A standard-issued PA driver’s license and photo ID does not currently comply with REAL ID. As a result of Act 3 of 2017, PennDOT applied for an extension for compliance until October 2020. DHS has recently granted Pennsylvania an enforcement extension through October 10, 2018.

DHS has stated that beginning January 22, 2018, travelers who have driver’s licenses issued by a state that is not yet compliant with REAL ID and that has not received an extension will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel. Because Pennsylvania is currently under a REAL ID extension, travelers with PennDOT-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards may continue to use their licenses as usual.


REAL ID does NOT apply to the following:

  • Entering Federal facilities that do not require a person to present identification, such as a Post Office or Social Security Office;

  • Voting or registering to vote;

  • Applying for or receiving Federal benefits;

  • Being licensed by a state to drive;

  • Accessing Health or life preserving services (including hospital and health clinics), law enforcement, or constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings and jury duty);

  • Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations.

What changes are needed for a PA driver’s license and photo ID to comply with REAL ID?

To comply with REAL ID, a state-issued ID must contain (1) full legal name; (2) date of birth; (3) gender; (4) driver’s license or ID card number; (5) digital photograph of the person; (6) address of principal residence; (7) person’s signature; (8) physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes; and (9) a common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.

Additionally, a system of state-issued licenses and IDs must require in-person presentation of documents verifying your identity, as well as certain technology, security and application processing requirements.

How much will it cost Pennsylvania to implement REAL ID?

According to PennDOT’s initial report to the General Assembly as required by Act 3 of 2017, the total start-up costs to implement REAL ID between August 2017 and March 2019 are approximately $24 to $30M. The most significant cost of compliance will be from PennDOT creating new facilities and hiring more staff to handle the anticipated increased customer traffic from REAL ID applications.

After start-up, the ongoing costs will be approximately $26.3 to $28.5M in the first full year of operation, and will decrease to approximately $17 to $20M for each year thereafter.

Will I have to get a REAL ID once they’re available? Will this be in addition to my license or photo ID?

No, a REAL ID is not mandatory. Once implemented, Pennsylvanians can choose to get either the standard-issued driver’s license or photo ID that DOES NOT comply with REAL ID, or a driver’s license or photo ID that DOES comply with REAL ID. If you choose to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID, it will replace your standard version.

When will REAL IDs be available in Pennsylvania and how much will they cost?

PennDOT estimates that the optional REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and photo IDs will be available by Spring 2019. 

A REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID will cost 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 photo ID). The expiration date of your initial REAL ID product will include any time remaining on your existing non-REAL ID product, plus an additional four years, unless the customer is over 65 and has a two-year license. This means that you will not “lose” time that you’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.

What can I do now to get ready for REAL ID?

REAL ID products will not be available until Spring 2019. However, PennDOT is encouraging customers who want a REAL ID to start gathering and verifying the required documents as soon as possible. To get a REAL ID 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).

If you obtained your first PA driver’s license or ID after September 2003, PennDOT may already have these verified documents on file. As a result, beginning in March 2018, these customers can visit the PennDOT website and request that PennDOT confirm that the customer’s documents are on file. If on file, you can pay the one-time fee and receive a REAL ID product through the mail once available without visiting a Driver’s License Center.

If your documents are not on file, or if you obtained your first PA driver’s license or ID before September 2003, you can bring in the required documents to a Driver’s License Center to be verified in person beginning September 2018. You would then receive the REAL ID product through the mail once available.

If I don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license or photo ID, can I still board a flight? What about children?

Since Pennsylvania was granted an enforcement extension through October 10, 2018, a PA driver’s license or photo ID can be used at airports through at least that date. If no other extensions are granted past October 10, 2018 and an adult passenger does not have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will accept any of the following instead:

· U.S. passport or U.S. passport card;

· DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST);

· U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians);

· Permanent resident card or Border crossing card;

· DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license;

· Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan);

· Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID;

· HSPD-12 PIV card or U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential;

· Foreign government-issued passport;

· Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card;

· Transportation worker identification credential;

· U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766).

The TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. All passengers and children must present a U.S. passport when traveling outside the United States.

What if I don’t drive, or can’t drive?

If you don’t already have a REAL ID such as a passport or military ID, and you don’t or can’t drive, you will have the option to get a REAL ID-compliant photo ID.