State’s new ID cards coming in March

By Victoria Lavelle

Victoria Lavelle - Pennsylvania REAL ID Photo3
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will begin issuing Real ID’s in March. Image courtesy of PennDOT

For college students across Pennsylvania, the countdown has begun on current driver licenses as they are all set to expire in a little over a year as the state introduces new, federally compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses beginning next month.

Beginning in October 2020, Pennsylvanians will be required to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, photo ID card, or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) when they board a domestic commercial flight or enter a federal building or military installation that requires ID.

Getting a REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents, but they will be available in March 2019 to Pennsylvanians who want them.

The Real ID Law passed in 2005 under President George W. Bush to keep America safer from terrorism by making it harder to obtain an identification card.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission found considerable differences regarding the set of requirements each state had set for residents to obtain an official government issued ID.

To correct the matter, the federal government issued standard guidelines for all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, to ensure consistency across the nation.

To upgrade a Pennsylvania ID card or driver’s license to an official REAL ID heading into 2020 requires that individuals provide the following:

• A valid birth certificate,

• A Social Security Card (non-laminated),

• Proof of all legal name changes (marriage certificate or court order issued by your county’s family court),

• Two forms of proof of address (utility bill & bank statements) with scan capability.

A new license will cost $60.50 — in comparison to the previous PennDOT renewal fee of $30.50 — as it’s reported to include  a one-time REAL ID fee of $30.50.

Additionally, REAL IDs are set to last four years,  plus  any remaining time on your previous license. After the one-time initial $30 upgrade fee, the price of renewal every four years will drop back to the usual $30.50.

States that don’t comply will forfeit their right to have their ID cards recognized as Federal ID’s which means that those drivers licenses will not be recognized by Homeland Security, preventing folks from boarding airplanes, entering military facilities, or visiting Federal Buildings requiring ID. REAL ID modern technology includes facial recognition software utilizing each DMV photo to ensure credibility, the sharing of criminal and driving records with all 50 states, and gold star branding that identifies all ID holders as American citizens, according to Homeland Security.

To date, some states have continued issuing legal ID’s to non-American citizens as long as applicants have a birth certificate and proof of address. Someone with a previously issued state ID card or driver’s license can still enjoy the driving benefits, but won’t be permitted to board an airplane.

The reason Pennsylvania is up against a deadline is that the General Assembly pushed back by passing a law in 2011 that prohibited Pennsylvania from complying with the federal standard.

The language of the approved bill hinted at what may have been an objection with the federal law by allowing the governor or attorney general to challenge the constitutionality or legality of the Real ID Act.

This spring, PennDOT plans to raise awareness about the REAL ID through social media and marketing campaigns, as well as by sending mailers to driver’s license holders.

“We’re still on track to begin issuing in March,” said Kurt Myers, deputy secretary for driver and vehicle services at PennDOT, in an official email.  “There are a lot of moving parts, but I feel comfortable that things will be in place by March.”

PennDOT began prequalifying Pennsylvanians for Real ID’s last September. State residents may bring their REAL ID required documents into any PennDOT driver license center for pre-verification and file storage.

Once documents are filed at the department and REAL IDs are available in March, customers can apply online, pay the one-time fee, and their REAL ID product will be mailed to them within 7-10 days; or they can visit one of up to 13 REAL ID centers and receive their REAL ID product over the counter at the time of service.

There’s a slight bonus for some residents  who received their first PA driver’s license or ID card after September 2003 because the agency may already have documents on file.

PennDOT estimates roughly 3.5 million Pennsylvanians have existing documents on file, yet they encourage everyone to do an online check to verify document validity. Once verification is complete, residents can fill out the online PennDOT form to ensure their records are marked “verified status” to enjoy the fortune of applying for and receiving their REAL ID via U.S. postal mail.

Victoria Lavelle - Pennsylvania REAL ID Photo1
The Department of Homeland Security provides this diagram to help address false rumors regarding new REAL ID’s.
Graphic courtesy of PennDOT

Those without verified documents will have to take their documents to a driver’s license center in person. PennDOT suggests that residents with valid passports wait a few months before getting a Real ID so those without passports can be first in line.

Pennsylvanians can call PennDOT at 717-412-5300 or check the PennDOT website starting in March to verify if the department has documents stored on file.

An official statement released by PennDOT reads: “Our staff manually checks customers’ records document by document, which has created a backlog in processing the thousands of applications the department has received.

The department is applicants to be patient.” For more info visit default.aspx

Contact Victoria Lavelle at

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