The Clock is Ticking for REAL ID

AAA's guide on how to prepare for the changes PA travelers will face next year

REAL ID has arrived in Pennsylvania, and AAA East Central advises that travelers consider their options now ahead of next year’s nationwide enforcement of the federal program.  Beginning October 2020, all U.S. residents will need a compliant license/ID or an acceptable form of ID to board a domestic flight, access a Federal facility, or enter a nuclear power plant.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) considers a current passport or military ID acceptable identification for boarding an aircraft.

“The requirement for REAL ID to fly will be here before we know it,” says Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central.  “To avoid being caught off-guard, now is the time for Pennsylvanians to decide whether they’ll upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant license or whether they’ll use a passport instead.” 

In May, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicated the Commonwealth is compliant with the federal REAL ID Act.  Accordingly, PennDOT has been issuing REAL IDs to Pennsylvanians since March.

Pennsylvanians have a choice as to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card, or a standard driver’s license or identification card.  For anyone who decides to upgrade to a REAL ID, they’ll pay a one-time fee of $30 and a renewal fee (which is currently $30.50 for a standard, non-commercial driver’s license).  With the exception of anyone older than 65 who has opted for a two-year license, the expiration date on a new REAL ID will include any time left on a current product, plus another four years. 

“So, if your license is set to expire in October 2020, but you upgrade to a REAL ID in October 2019, your new compliant license won’t expire until 2024,” explains Podguski.

Options for obtaining a REAL ID:

  • Apply online (for pre-verified customers only).
  • Visit any PennDOT Driver License Center to have documents verified and imaged.  Then, the REAL ID will be received in the mail within 15 business days.
  • Visit one of 12 REAL ID Centers statewide to have documents verified and imaged, and receive a REAL ID on site.

For anyone who received their first driver’s license or photo ID prior to September 2003, they can pre-verify for REAL ID at a PennDOT Driver License Center.  Federal regulations require that PennDOT must verify the following documents for a customer before issuing a REAL ID-compliant product:

  • Proof of identity (Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal or valid U.S. Passport).
  • Proof of Social Security number (Card must be original and the name on the S.S. card must match the identity document).
  • Proof of all legal name changes (Marriage certificate or court order issued by your county’s family court).
  • Two proofs of current, physical PA address (examples include a current, unexpired PA driver’s license or ID and a no more than 90-day-old bank statement or utility bill).

While AAA East Central branch offices are not REAL ID centers, AAA Travel Agents are on hand to discuss any questions members or the general public may have about the program.  Additionally, travelers can consult PennDOT’s website with any questions regarding REAL ID.