If you’ve been to the airport any time in the past year, there’s no doubt you’ve seen signs about the upcoming switch to “REAL ID” forms of identification. The “REAL ID Act”, passed by Congress in 2005, sets minimum security standards for identification, including drivers licenses. Here’s what you need to know:
- Beginning October 1st, 2020, REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or photo ID cards will be required to board any domestic flight. (Passports will still be needed for international flights).
- You can still use a passport for domestic flights if you do not have a REAL ID-compliant form of identification.
- There are 5 states that DO NOT require REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses (Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont), but only if you have the Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) already.
- You can tell if a driver’s license is REAL ID-compliant if it has a star in the upper right-hand corner.
- To get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, check with your state’s driver’s licensing agency. All states have different requirements, but all require several forms of identification, as well as a change fee (fees vary by state).
For more answers to frequently asked questions, check out the Department of Homeland Security’s site.
Steps to Getting a REAL ID in Pennsylvania
As I am from Pennsylvania, I’ll walk you through the steps I took to get my REAL ID.
- First, decide if I actually need a REAL ID or not.
My current license does not expire until 2023. Do I really want to go through the hassle and fees of getting a star on my driver’s license? Ultimately, I decided that yes, I would feel safer not having to bring my passport on domestic flights and for peace of mind, I would get a REAL ID driver’s license. But this may not be for everyone! If you do not fly all that much, it’s not necessary to upgrade before your current renewal date.
- Go to PennDOT’s REAL ID homepage.
Read all the FAQ. However, on the homepage, it says to gather your documents. DO NOT waste the time doing this if you are applying for pre-verification. You will not need it if you are approved.
- Apply for pre-verification if you are eligible.
You may be eligible for pre-verification if you applied for your first PA driver’s license or photo ID card after September 1st, 2003. It does not cost anything to check, so if you are unsure, then I would just do it! If you are approved, you will not have to go into the driver’s license center AT ALL (they will mail it directly to you!).
- Wait for PennDOT’s decision.
As of January 2020, it took approximately 2 weeks to receive a response about the status of my pre-verification approval. Luckily, I was approved!
- Apply for your REAL ID online and have it mailed to you in 15 business days.
There was a link in the approval email leading me to PennDOT’s REAL ID Program Enrollment. Here, I was instructed to enter my driver’s license number, date of birth, and last four of my social security number.
Once you enter the enrollment page, you must verify all of the information (full name, address, etc) is correct. If it is not, you MUST go to a driver’s licensing center and have it corrected.
Fees: the total fees to change came to $60.50 including a $30.50 driver’s license renewal fee and $30 one-time REAL ID fee. This does not include any optional contributions to various funds.
Simple as that! After 2 weeks, I should receive a renewed driver’s license with a star indicating that it is REAL ID-compliant.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.