Pennsylvania moves closer to Real ID compliance

Transportation and Security Administration workers screen passengers. After October 2020, a Pennsylvania driver's license will not be enough identification to board a plane. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo, file)

Transportation and Security Administration workers screen passengers. After October 2020, a Pennsylvania driver's license will not be enough identification to board a plane. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo, file)

After years of dragging its heels, Pennsylvania is on its way to compliance with the federal Real ID law. The Real ID is a minimum security standard for driver’s licenses to be used to access federal facilities such as a military base or boarding an airplane.

On Monday, the state Department of Transportation said soon everyone in the state will be able to apply for new IDs.

Those who got their first driver’s license or state ID after 2003 already qualify for Real ID because the necessary documents are already on file.

But most Pennsylvanians have had their licenses longer, so their information has not been entered in PennDOT’s system. Next month, they can qualify for a Real ID by providing proof of their current address, a Social Security card and proof of identification, such as a passport or birth certificate.

In March, the state plans to start retrofitting driver licensing centers to issue Real IDs in person. Locations will include Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Rockview, Erie, Altoona, and South 70th Street in Philadelphia. New facilities are planned in Pittsburgh, King of Prussia, Allentown, Harrisburg, and Lancaster.

Real IDs cost $30 and meet federal anti-terrorism standards, but they are optional and aren’t necessary to legally drive.

But, come October 2020, current Pennsylvania licenses won’t be accepted as identification to board planes, so people who don’t have Real IDs will have to show a passport if they want to fly, said Kurt Myers, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for driver and vehicle services.

“Other states that have already implemented Real ID are seeing around a 25 percent adoption rate, and that’s what we expect here in Pennsylvania as well,” he said.

The federal Real ID policy isn’t new; it dates back to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“If you remember, going back to those terrible days, many of the terrorists had fake IDs that they had received,” Myers said. “This was a direct result of that.”

Complying was tough for the commonwealth.

A 2011 law expressly prohibited officials from adopting post-9/11 Real ID standards, and it had to be repealed before changes could be made.

Pennsylvania has already had to apply for one extension from the federal government, and Myers said it will need another before the compliance process is finished.

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