Pennsylvania Real ID: A Guide

After over a decade of avoiding complying with the federal 2005 Real ID Act (the “Act”), on March 1, 2019, Pennsylvania issued its first Real ID compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards. Despite the topic’s frequent appearance on the evening news, there are still misunderstandings and myths surrounding Real ID and what it takes to get one.

First, the Act was created in the wake of 9/11 to establish nationwide minimum security standards for the issuance of identification cards. These standards include identity verification procedures for applicants and safety specifications for the buildings which produce Real ID compliant cards.

Secondly, and importantly for Pennsylvanians, the Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting state issued IDs which do not meet the Act’s minimum standards. This means, starting October 1, 2020, a standard Pennsylvania driver’s license or ID card will not be sufficient to board a domestic flight or enter federal facilities and military bases.

Is a Pennsylvania Real ID required?

Despite the above, the answer is no. Pennsylvania is still, and will foreseeably continue, offering standard non-Real ID compliant ID cards and driver’s licenses. A standard ID will remain an acceptable form of identification to drive, vote, received medical care, and for other identifying purposes.

Those who might not need a Real ID include those who do not fly, visit federal buildings/military bases, or have other ID which is compliant with the Act. Other forms of Real ID compliant identification include passport books, passport cards and military IDs. So, if you already have one of the above you do not need a Pennsylvania Real ID, it just might be convenient to have one.

What documents are required to get a Pennsylvania Real ID?

You will need documents which prove your: (i) US citizenship/residency status, (ii) social security number, and (iii) Pennsylvania residency.  If your name has changed since birth or if you are not a US citizen, pay particular attention to the additional/alternative documents you will need. To see a list of what types of documents satisfy the above categories, click here.

If you received your first Pennsylvania driver’s license after September of 2003, you might be “pre-verified,” for a Real ID. Meaning, PennDOT might already have on file all the information needed to get a Real ID from your original application.  You can check whether or not you are pre-verified here. If pre-verified you can apply for your Real ID online.

Where can I apply and how much will it cost?

A Pennsylvania Real ID can be applied for online (pre-verification eligible applicants only) or at any DMV location. However, a Real ID can only be issued at one of the twelve DMV locations which are Real ID Centers. If you apply at a DMV location that is not a Real ID Center, you will receive your card in the mail within 15 days. The Real ID Center closest to our firm is the Summerdale location in Enola. For a list of all twelve Real ID Centers, click here.

Applying for a Real ID will cost $60.50. This includes a one-time Real ID application fee of $30.00 and your regular renewal fee of $30.50. If you are receiving a Real ID prior to your standard ID expiring, your unexpired term will be tacked on to the standard four years received upon renewal. For example, if your license expires on September 1, 2020 and you receive a Pennsylvania Real ID on September 1, 2019, your Real ID will expire in five years, not four.


When change is looming, it can be unsettling not knowing what to expect.  Hopefully, this article provided the information you needed to have peace of mind regarding the Pennsylvania Read ID system. If you have any outstanding questions, check out the Real ID FAQs below.

Real ID FAQs.

Question: Does the Real ID Act create a national data base of our personal information?

Answer:  No. Each state continues to maintain its own records and controls who gets access to those records (including the federal government) and under what circumstances.

FYI – a different national database already exists. The National Driver Register (“NDR”) is a computerized database which allows a State DMV to determine if an applicant’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been revoked, suspended, canceled or denied or if he or she has been convicted of serious traffic-related offenses in another State. The records maintained by the NDR include name, date of birth, gender, driver license number, and reporting State.

Question: Will Pennsylvania Real ID cards display my social security number or other sensitive information?

Answer: No. Pennsylvania Real ID’s and standard ID’s are, for the most part, identical. The exception is that in the top right corner the Real ID will have a gold circle with a white star, while the standard ID will read “NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES.” Pictures of all Pennsylvania issued ID cards, Real ID and standard, can be found here.

Question: Are senior citizens exempt from the Real ID requirement?

Answer: No. While Pennsylvania is home to one of the nation’s largest population of those 65 or older, there is no Real ID exemption for Pennsylvanian’s in their golden years. However, when deciding if you or a loved one needs a Real ID, consider whether the age and/or health of that person may limit his or her ability, desire or need to fly or visit federal facilities and military bases.