Your Step-By-Step Guide To A Real ID

Mar 4, 2019

Pennsylvania residents planning to travel travel domestically by plane or enter federal facilities will soon need an updated identification card called a Real ID. Starting this month, Real IDs will be available for Pennsylvanians online, at PennDOT Driver's License Centers or at Real ID centers.

Passed in 2005, the federal Real ID Act required states to update the process of how applicants obtain driver’s licenses and identification cards following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the Department of Homeland Security. But for Pennsylvania and 11 other states, extensions were granted through various dates in 2019.


Pennsylvanians will need a Real ID or passport to board domestic flights starting Oct. 1, 2020. (Traditional IDs will still be accepted in Pennsylvania for driving, voting, validating their identification for federal proceedings, gaining access to hospitals or applying for federal benefits.) While Pennsylvania's Real ID extension runs out Aug. 1, 2019, that marks the deadline for the state to submit its compliance package to the federal government and have it reviewed by the 2020 deadline.


A growing backlog of requested documents for REAL IDs may complicate the commonwealth's 2020 deadline. Hear more about what happened and what's at stake on 90.5 WESA's The Confluence here.


The Real ID will look similar to a standard card, but has a gold star in the top right corner and costs $30, plus an additional renewal fee (which is $30.50 for a four-year non-commercial driver's license or photo ID). The card will be valid for four years plus any time left on the previous license.

PennDOT expects 2.5 million Pennsylvanians to apply for a Real ID in the coming months.

In Allegheny County, Rep. Lori Mizgorski will be hosting an informational Real ID event on March 7 in Gibsonia to educate constituents on the process.


There are a few ways to procure a Real ID:


Arguably, the easiest way to obtain a Real ID is online.

Residents who received their first Pennsylvania-issued learner's permit, driver's license or photo ID after Sept.1, 2003 may already have their Real ID documentation on file. Many people in this category received postcards of their eligibility; to check your status or submit a pre-verification form, click here.

Once an email or postcard certifying validity is received, Real IDs can be ordered online, without the need of visiting a DMV or Real ID Center. If you haven't been pre-verified, you may need to bring your Real ID documents to a driver's license center in person.

PennDOT Driver License Center

To receive a Real ID in person at driver's license center, Pennsylvanians must provide a variety of forms of identification, that can be found on PennDOT's website.


Once those items are verified and digitized in-person, a Real ID will be mailed within 15 business days.

Real ID Center

Throughout the state, there are also 12 Real ID centers, where you can get your card over the counter. Residents of southwest Pennsylvania can visit centers in Bridgeville or Altoona. While Pennsylvanians will be required to bring and submit the same documents as at a standard Driver's License Center, once items are scanned and verified, the card will be printed on the spot.


*This post was last updated at 2:44 p.m. on Monday, March 4, 2019 to clarify the Real ID deadline and information about procuring a Real ID.