Pennsylvanians have 1 year before federal REAL ID requirement begins

Pennsylvanians may still travel domestically after May 3, 2023, but they will need to pack another form of identification, such as a valid U.S. passport or military ID.

An example of a REAL ID.

An example of a REAL ID. (Pennsylvania Department Of Transportation)

This story originally appeared on WESA.

As of Tuesday, Pennsylvanians have one year until the federal REAL ID requirement goes into effect and their driver’s licenses no longer will be accepted as proof of identification for domestic air travel. The deadline is set for May 3, 2023, after several pandemic-related postponements.

“Although a year seems like a long time to get ready, the deadline will be upon us before you know it,” said Melissa Batula, acting executive deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “We encourage our customers who want a REAL ID to get one as soon as possible.”

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. It established heightened nationwide security standards for state-issued identification. Next May — 18 years later — the IDs will be required to board an airplane, enter a military base and enter a federal facility that requires identification.

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Since March 2019, PennDOT has distributed about 1.6 million REAL IDs out of 8.6 million customers. Despite having a year to check this item off their travel planning to-do list, Pennsylvanians should act quickly to get their REAL IDs according to Philadelphia International Airport COO Keith Brune.

“We would encourage you to start the process for REAL ID sooner rather than later to beat that last-minute rush, which we’re sure is going to happen next year,” he said.

The ID isn’t mandatory, though. Pennsylvanians may still travel domestically after May 3, 2023, but they will need to pack another form of identification, such as a valid U.S. passport or military ID. PennDOT estimates 6.7 million Pennsylvanians have licenses or identification cards that are not REAL ID-compliant.

“If you are enjoying the convenience of domestic air travel using just your driver’s license as your form of identification, now is the time to start planning to obtain that REAL ID,” said Jana Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, at a press conference Monday.

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Pennsylvanians can get a REAL ID by visiting a PennDOT driver’s license center with the required documents. Those who have been pre-verified can apply online and have their REAL ID mailed to them within 15 days.

Here are the following documents required for a REAL ID:

  • Proof of identity: an original or certified copy of a birth certificate or a valid, unexpired U.S. passport;
  • Proof of Social Security number: Social Security card with the current legal name;
  • Two proofs of current, physical Pennsylvania address: a current, unexpired driver’s license or identification card, vehicle registration or a utility bill with the same name and address;
  • Proof of all legal name changes (if current legal name is different than what is reflected on proof of identity document): certified marriage certificate, court order approving a name change or an official amended birth certificate.

The first REAL ID will cost a one-time fee of $30, plus an annual renewal fee. Renewal fees for REAL ID-compliant, four-year driver’s licenses are $30.50 and $31.50 for a photo ID. The expiration date of the initial REAL ID will include any time remaining on their existing standard-issue license, plus an additional four years unless the customer is 65 or older and has a two-year license.

After having the required documents verified and scanned by PennDOT, the REAL ID should arrive by mail within 15 business days. Pennsylvanians also can visit one of the state’s 13 REAL ID centers to obtain the new identification over-the-counter.

REAL ID-compliant cards are marked with a gold star in the upper right corner. Standard-issue licenses include the phrase “Not for REAL ID purposes” near the top.

Though the deadline is a year away, officials argue people should apply for the ID before making travel arrangements. Arriving at the airport without proper documentation will ruin vacations, according to TSA Federal Security Director Gerardo Spero.

“Imagine you’ve spent many hours of your life planning the perfect vacation … Unfortunately, we will have to turn you away,” said Spero. “Don’t be that person. Go out and get yourself a REAL ID. It’s not complicated.”

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