REAL ID: Do You Really Need to Get One?

Dear Neighbor,

Do you really need a REAL ID? The answer is no — if you have a valid passport.

Here’s everything you need to know about the REAL ID — who needs it and how to get it:

Starting October 1, 2020, a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card or a valid passport will be required by the federal government in order to board a plane (for domestic or foreign flights) and to enter a federal building that requires ID. If you have a valid (meaning, unexpired) passport, you do not need to get a REAL ID, since your passport will suffice for federal identification, and your standard, non-REAL ID-compliant driver’s license will suffice for driving. That said, if you opt not to get a REAL ID, you will need to have your passport on hand when you fly domestically or enter federal buildings after October 1, 2020.

Getting a REAL ID

If you decide you want or need a REAL ID, your first step is to gather the following documents:

  • Proof of identity (a valid U.S. passport OR an original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal)
  • Proof of Social Security number (an original Social Security card; a photocopy won’t do)
  • Proof of legal name changes, if applicable (a certified copy of a marriage certificate or the court order issued by your county’s family court)
  • Two proofs of current Pennsylvania address (a current, unexpired Pennsylvania license or non-driver’s ID AND a current car registration or utility bill that is no more than 90 days old)

If you got your first PA driver’s license or ID after September 1, 2003, you may not have to produce these documents, since PennDOT has scanned the required documents as part of the regular license application process since that time. To find out if you are exempt from this part of the REAL ID process, go to and click on the pre-verification icon.

If PennDOT has your documents, you can apply for a REAL ID-compliant license online (also at, paying a one-time $30 fee plus a license renewal fee (the current fee is $30.50) by credit card. The state will extend your REAL ID expiration date to include any time remaining on your current license. PennDOT will then mail you your REAL ID-compliant license – using your most recent photo on file – when it’s ready. You should receive it within 10 days.

If your documents are not on file with PennDOT, you will need to bring the documents to any PennDOT Driver License Center for pre-verification. Simply go to your nearest DMV (no appointment necessary) and present the documents to a worker there for certification. Once your documents are certified, you can order your REAL ID online, also at

If you go to the King of Prussia or Norristown Driver License Center to present your documents, you can leave with your new REAL ID-compliant license in hand. Just be sure to bring a check with you, since PennDOT Driver License Centers do not accept cash or credit cards.

A WORD ABOUT THE DOCUMENTS: Your name on each of the required documents should match exactly or close to it. If some documents have your middle initial and others have your full middle name, the initial should match the first letter of your middle name. If it does, you should be fine. If it does not, PennDOT is unlikely to certify your identity.

If you have questions about this pretty complicated process or your documents, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office for help. Call (215) 5472-5210 or email My staff can look over your documents before you head to the DMV and/or help you order any documents you need.


Steve McCarter
Pennsylvania State Representative
Serving Cheltenham Township, Springfield Township and Jenkintown Borough