March 18, 2019
The road to bringing REAL IDs to Pennsylvania was a long one, but it has finally come to a head this month.
Pennsylvanians are now eligible to get their REAL ID — the U.S.'s new federally-approved form of identification.
The REAL ID Act was passed in Congress back in 2005 to establish minimum security standards for license issuance and production in the wake of concerns over security from 9/11. In December 2014 the Department of Homeland Security issued a phased enforcement plan that extended deadlines in Pennsylvania and 11 other states.
Those interested could apply for pre-verification in September 2018 and get the identification this month.
By Oct. 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or an acceptable alternative identification approved by TSA (like a passport) to board domestic flights or enter a federal facility.
PennDOT predicted 2.5 million people would apply for REAL ID in the coming months, according to WHYY.
Getting a REAL ID technically is optional, as long as you have a valid passport. You do not need a REAL ID to drive, vote, apply for or receive federal benefits through Veterans' Affairs, enter federal facilities like post offices that do not require identification, access a hospital, serve on a federal jury or testify in federal court.
Actually, if you do not immediately need this kind of identification and do have a valid passport, PennDOT recommends waiting until your license or ID card requires normal renewal to avoid the initial REAL ID rush.
If you are interested in getting a REAL ID, you can start that process on PennDOT's website here. If you went through the pre-verification process before Feb. 1, you will receive communication from PennDOT about your REAL ID documents.