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.

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 my constituents?

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, 2017. Meaning, a PA driver’s license or photo ID CAN CONTINUE TO BE USED to access Federal facilities, military installations and nuclear sites that require ID upon entry through that date.  PennDOT is continuing to pursue additional extensions; we will provide those updates as they become available.

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.

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, pending an additional extension from DHS.

PennDOT expects to implement a one-time fee for the optional REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID. This fee will be in addition to the current standard driver’s license/photo ID fees. Upon renewal of a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID, the customer would pay the standard renewal fee for their product. At this time, PennDOT has not determined the amount of the one-time fee. We will provide that information once it is available.

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.

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 domestic 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.

Update from October 11, 2017:

Department of Homeland Security Extends REAL ID Enforcement Grace Period for Pennsylvania
Applies to Residents’ Access to Federal Facilities Through January 22, 2018

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a REAL ID enforcement grace period through January 22, 2018, which means that Pennsylvania residents will not face access issues when entering federal facilities through at least that date.

This grace period goes into effect on Wednesday, October 11, and applies to jurisdictions currently under compliance extensions set to expire October 10. In addition to Pennsylvania, there are 29 total jurisdictions with October 10 extension expirations.

PennDOT submitted an extension request to DHS in early September and is currently awaiting DHS response.

The enforcement grace period applies only to entrance to federal facilities. There is no enforcement on commercial air travel until January 22, 2018.

PennDOT has begun work on the implementation of REAL ID, and estimates REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards will be available at the customer’s option in March 2019. This will allow ample time for customers who want a REAL ID product to get one before the final DHS effective date of October 1, 2020.

Information on REAL ID in Pennsylvania, including frequently asked questions, is available at