REAL ID is a federal law which changes how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards to its residents. Beginning on October 1, 2020, only REAL ID-compliant cards will be accepted for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic commercial flight or entering a federal facility that requires identification at the door.

Applying for a REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents. You can apply for a REAL ID or continue to receive a standard driver’s license or identification card if you choose. A standard card will still entitle you to most of the regular benefits of an identification card such as driving, voting, accessing hospitals, and applying or receiving federal benefits such as Social Security or veterans’ benefits. However, if you choose not to obtain a REAL ID, you will be required to provide alternative identification, such as a valid passport or a military ID, to board domestic flights or enter federal facilities and military bases after October 1, 2020.

In order to prepare for REAL ID, it is recommended that Pennsylvanians begin to gather their documents. Each of the documents listed below is required in order to apply for and obtain a REAL ID:

  • Proof of identity: Original or certified copy of a birth certificate filed with the state office of vital records with a raised/embossed seal — issued by an authorized government agency — or valid, unexpired U.S. Passport or passport card.
  • Proof of Social Security number: Social Security card.
  • Two proofs of current, physical PA address (if applicable): Examples include current, unexpired PA license or ID, PA vehicle registration, auto insurance card or utility bill with the same name and address.
  • Proof of all legal name changes: Certified marriage certificate, court order, or divorce decree issued by your county's family court.

You can apply for a REAL ID online or in person.

To apply online, you must have received your first Pennsylvania driver’s license, learner’s permit, or photo ID card after September 1, 2003. If this applies to you, you may visit the DMV's Pre-Verification page and check to see that your documents are on file. Then fill out an online application and your ID will be mailed to you.

To apply in person, you must bring the required documents to your local PennDOT Driver’s License Center, fill out an in-person application, and your ID will be mailed to you. If you wish to obtain your REAL ID in person, please search your zip code on the PennDOT website to find the closest location.

If you have any additional questions about what REAL ID is, how to apply, or issues faced – you can refer to the Pennsylvania DMV's website or, as always, contact one of my local offices to assist you.