Beginning October 1, 2021, 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.
What is REAL ID?
REAL ID is a federal law that affects how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are going to be acceptable for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic commercial flight, or entering a military installation or federal facility that requires ID.
Beginning October 1, 2021, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant license, identification card, or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to:
- Board domestic commercial flights.
- Enter a military base.
- Enter a federal facility that requires ID at the door.
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 do not get a REAL ID, you must have an alternate form of federally-acceptable identification (valid passport, military ID, etc.) to board domestic commercial flights and enter certain federal facilities after October 1, 2020.
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, 2021||✖️||✔️|
|Entering a Federal Facility (that requires ID) or Military Base||✖️||✔️|
You do NOT need a REAL ID to:
- Access hospitals.
- Visit the post office.
- Access federal courts.
- Apply for or receive federal benefits, such as social security or veterans’ benefits.
If you’re not sure whether a REAL ID is right for you, our REAL ID online wizard may be able to help.
Prepare For REAL ID
Gather Your Documents
The best thing you can do to prepare for REAL ID is to get your documents together. Federal regulations require that PennDOT must verify original versions or certified copies of the following documents for a customer before issuing a REAL ID:
- Proof of identity: Original or certified copy of a birth certificate filed with the state office of vital records with a raised/embossed seal — issued by an authorized government agency — or valid, unexpired U.S. Passport or passport card.
- Proof of Social Security number: Social Security card.
- Two proofs of current, physical PA address (if applicable): Examples include current, unexpired PA license or ID, PA vehicle registration, auto insurance card or utility bill with the same name and address.
- Proof of all legal name changes: Certified marriage certificate, court order, or divorce decree issued by your county’s family court.
If you are a lawfully present non-U.S. citizen, acceptable documents include:
- Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (EAD) issued by DHS; Forms I-766 or Form 1-688B
- Valid, Unexpired Permanent Resident Card I-551 Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) Issued by DHS or INS
Unexpired foreign passport with an unexpired U.S. visa affixed, and an I-94 indicating temporary evidence of permanent residence
Some non-U.S. citizens may be required to present additional documentation. Additional information for non-U.S. citizens can be found on PennDOT’s REAL ID Information for non-U.S. Citizens page.
Learn more about REAL ID documentation requirements and download a printable document checklist on PennDOT’s REAL ID Document Check page.
Apply For Pre-Verification
If you received your FIRST Pennsylvania driver’s license, learner’s permit, or photo ID card AFTER September 1, 2003, PennDOT may already have your REAL ID documentation on file.
To find out if your required REAL ID documents are on file with PennDOT, apply for REAL ID pre-verification online.
If PennDOT confirms that your documents are on file, you can order your REAL ID online — no need to visit a driver’s license center!
How To Get A REAL ID
Order REAL ID Online
Pre-verified customers may apply online and receive their REAL IDs in the mail within 15 business days.
Get REAL ID In-Person
- Visit any PennDOT REAL ID center to have your documents verified and imaged and receive your REAL ID at the time of service.
- Visit any PennDOT Driver License Center to have your documents verified and imaged, and receive your REAL ID within 15 business days.
Click the buttons below to learn more about whether you need a REAL ID, what documents you will need and steps you can take now to prepare to get an optional REAL ID.
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.