All You Need to Know About Pennsylvania REAL IDs

Check out our Pennsylvania REAL ID guide to see if you need a new ID and how to obtain one.

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Do you need a new ID? Do you need to get one right now? What is the difference between a regular ID and a REAL ID? Soon enough, Pennsylvania residents will no longer be able to use a driver’s license to board domestic flights or enter certain federal facilities, unless they opt to get a REAL ID.

What is a REAL ID? The REAL ID law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, 2020, requires states to issue driver’s licenses and ID cards that meet federal requirements. Currently, Pennsylvania IDs are not acceptable for federal purposes. A REAL ID has a gold star in the top left corner, which signifies that it is a REAL ID-compliant product.

A REAL ID is optional. Since a REAL ID is only needed to board domestic flights or enter a military or federal facility that requires ID, residents who have another form of federally-acceptable identification, such as a passport or military ID, do not need to get a REAL ID. You do not need a REAL ID to drive, vote, access hospitals, visit the post office, access federal courts or apply for or receive federal benefits. If you are unsure if you need a REAL ID, the state’s REAL ID online wizard may be able to help.

How do I get a REAL ID? For those who need a REAL ID, there are multiple ways to get one. It all depends on when you got your first driver’s license. The magical date is Sept. 1, 2003. If you passed your driver’s test and got your license before that date, you’re going to need to go through the process in person. If you got your first license after that date, you may be able to order a new ID online, since your REAL ID documents may already be on file.

To get verified in person, visit a REAL ID center or your local DMV. If you go to a REAL ID center, you can get a REAL ID at the time of service, while you’ll have to wait about 15 business days if you go to the DMV.

Be sure to bring all the necessary documents with you, including proof of identity, proof of Social Security number, two proofs of current and physical Pennsylvania address (if applicable) and proof of all legal name changes. Individuals can visit the state website to learn more about gathering the necessary documents and what is needed if you are a lawfully present non-U.S. citizen.

If you decide to go the online route, check to see if PennDOT has your documents on file by applying for pre-verification online. If PennDOT has your REAL ID documents, you can go ahead and order your ID online. If they don’t, you’ll have to go to a REAL ID center or local DMV.

How much does a REAL ID cost? A REAL ID will serve as an upgraded replacement to your current ID, so residents will pay a one-time REAL ID fee of $30, in addition to the renewal fee (currently $30.50 for a four-year noncommercial driver’s license or photo ID.) But don’t worry – the expiration date of the REAL ID will reflect any time remaining on your current license or ID card, plus an additional four years, unless you’re more than 65 years of age and possess a two-year license. With this expiration date structure, residents won’t “lose” any time that you already paid for during prior renewals.

For more information regarding the REAL ID in Pennsylvania, visit the state website.

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