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.

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.

How will REAL ID affect me?

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 extension through Oct. 10, 2017. Meaning, a PA driver’s license or photo ID WILL BE accepted to access Federal facilities, military installations and nuclear sites that require ID upon entry through that date.  It is anticipated that additional extensions will be granted. 

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?

At this time, PennDOT is still in the process of determining what system changes need to be made to comply with REAL ID. However, PennDOT is confident that PA’s current driver’s licenses and photo IDs are already very secure and should not require extensive changes.

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 and application processing requirements.

How much will it cost Pennsylvania to implement REAL ID?

The cost for implementing REAL ID has not yet been determined. PennDOT will not know the costs until they have determined with DHS exactly what changes have to be made, and the extent of those changes.

PennDOT anticipates that the most significant cost of compliance will be from increased customer traffic within its driver’s licensing centers for renewals. Currently, renewals for PA driver’s licenses and photo IDs are handled through the mail or online. Other than the need for a new picture, most individuals do not have to go to the counter when renewing their driver’s license or photo ID. REAL ID increases the number of situations where an individual will have to go to the counter to provide required documentation when renewing.

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

PennDOT estimates that REAL IDs may be available by March 2019, as it will take approximately 18-24 months to implement. This timeframe is dependent upon negotiations with DHS, potential need for further implementing legislation, and budgetary concerns.

The fee for a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID has not yet been determined. However, PennDOT is working to implement REAL ID as cost effectively as possible.

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 the current one.

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.

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

A REAL ID-compliant license or photo ID will not be necessary to board a commercial flight until January 22, 2018. If 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. When traveling outside the United States, children must present a U.S. passport.

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This page will be devoted to issues surrounding appropriate voting ID’s for PA elections, helpful information about what kind of ID you will need, where you may be able to get it, and where to go if you run into trouble.

If you already know someone that is sure they will not be able to vote in any upcoming election the ACLU of PA will help and you can get directed to that help here:

The Committee of Seventy has a comprehensive list of everything having to do with Voting and IDs here: