The scoop on REAL ID – whether you need one and how to become pre-verified

I want to get the word out about REAL ID – including helping you decide whether you need one and, if so, explaining how you can become “pre-verified” for one now to save time later.

WHAT IT IS: A REAL ID is a new, optional form of driver’s license or identification card that PennDOT will issue after verifying certain identification and residency documents provided by you. REAL IDs will become available in March and will resemble a regular driver’s license or identification card, but will have a gold star.

WHETHER YOU NEED ONE: Getting a REAL ID is not mandatory but may be useful depending on your needs. Once card-based enforcement of the REAL ID Act begins on Oct. 1, 2020, you’ll no longer be able to use your regular, state-issued driver’s license or identification card to board commercial flights or enter high-security federal facilities such as military bases. Instead, you will either have to use the new REAL ID or rely on your passport, military ID or other form of federally accepted identification.

You don’t need a REAL ID to visit regular federal buildings like the post office, vote, apply for or receive federal benefits, or gain access to hospitals and health clinics.

WHAT DOCUMENTS YOU’LL NEED: If you decide you want a REAL ID, you can become pre-verified for one now by bringing the required documents to any PennDOT driver’s license center so they can be verified in person. (See below for details on our local center.)

To become pre-verified, you’ll need to bring:

  • Proof of your identity. (An original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal or a valid U.S. Passport. Please note that birth registration documents or church-issued certificates are not valid for this purpose.)

  • Proof of your Social Security number. (You’ll need your Social Security card. Please note that the card cannot be laminated.)

  • Two proofs of your current, physical PA address. (This can include your current, unexpired PA driver's license or ID, your current vehicle registration, your auto insurance card, a utility bill, etc.) 

  • Proof of all legal name changes, if your current full legal name is different from what’s reflected on the proof-of-identity document. (You’ll need a certified copy of your marriage certificate or a court order issued by your county's family court)

By becoming pre-verified now, you’ll be able to simply opt into the program online, and your REAL ID will be sent through the mail once it becomes available in March.

A note to folks who received their first PA driver’s license or ID card after September 2003: Because your documents may already be on file with PennDOT, you may be able to complete the entire process online. Read more here.

WHERE THE CENTER IS LOCATED AND WHEN IT’S OPEN: Bring your documents to our local PennDOT Driver’s Center located at 519 Greenville Road, Mercer, PA 16137 for scanning and verification. You can find a list of the center’s hours here. You’ll need to take a number when you arrive, and please be aware that there is a separate line (and different hours) for the Photo ID center, where your picture will be taken.

You can learn more about REAL ID here. As always, if you have any questions about REAL ID or any other state-related matter, don’t hesitate to contact my office