REAL ID Deadline Pushed Back Again, But It's Not Too Early to Prepare to Get One

Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it was once again pushing back the deadline for REAL ID, this time to May 3, 2023, due to the COVID-19 situation. In March 2020, DHS had extended the deadline to October 1, 2021 in response to the pandemic.

With REAL ID enforcement now two years away, some who have yet to get a REAL ID no doubt feel some sort of relief thinking there’s no rush to do so. What they shouldn’t feel, though, is that they can use to extension to wait until 2023 to get the process started to get a REAL ID-compliant identification.

Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.

For those who may not yet be aware of REAL ID, and why you’re going to need one if you plan to travel by air on a domestic flight on or after May 3, 2023 (and you do not have another form of acceptable identification named in the TSA link above), Congress in 2005 passed the REAL ID Act which enacted the 911 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The Act and implementing regulations establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibit federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards for official purposes such as getting through airport security checkpoints to board a plane.

“While there has been a temporary extension from the federal government with respect to mandating the use of REAL ID compliant forms of identification at airports and other entities, citizens should continue to plan for the eventual change in order to ensure they stay ahead of the curve,” said Shane Doud, Airport Government Affairs Manager who is PHL’s REAL ID liaison. “Much of the pre-verification work for obtaining a REAL ID compliant driver’s license from Pennsylvania can be done online. I strongly encourage everyone to get a jump start on this process in order to avoid the inevitable last-minute rush.”

While May 3, 2023 may seem like a long way off, it will be here before you realize it. Even if you may not have plans to take a domestic commercial flight after REAL ID is enforced, you never know when you may need to get on a plane to get somewhere fast. And you don’t want to be that person who shows up at the airport on May 3, 2023 expecting to fly somewhere only to find out you can’t get through security to board your flight. Because come May 3, 2023 if you are age 18 and older and do not have a valid passport, passport card, military ID or other form of acceptable identification (see TSA link above), you will not be able to get through the security checkpoint at any airport.

First, a few things to note:

Because your state is REAL ID compliant, that doesn’t mean your driver’s license if REAL ID compliant. Real ID compliant driver’s licenses are marked with a star at the top of the card.  If you are not sure whether your card is compliant, contact your state driver’s license agency. Note: Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, and Washington states issue REAL ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which are acceptable. State-issued enhanced driver’s licenses are marked with a flag.

Even if you have TSA Pre-Check, you’ll need a REAL ID or other form of acceptable identification to fly domestically come May 3, 2023. You will always need a passport to fly internationally; but if you plan to use your driver’s license to verify your identity at the checkpoint, it must be REAL ID compliant.

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion with the United States; the companion, however, will need a REAL ID for identity verification.

If you were issued a Pennsylvania driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID after September 2003 REAL ID documentation may be on file and you may not have to apply for a REAL ID in person. Visit the PA Real ID Pre-Verification page to apply if you fit into this category.

In order to get a Real ID compliant driver’s license, you need to contact your state’s driver’s license agency for details to complete the process.

Pennsylvania residents can get a REAL ID by visiting any PennDOT Driver’s License Center or REAL ID center. They can apply online if they have been pre-verified (issued a driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID after September 2003).

You’ll need to apply in person to present required documentation to verify who you are to get a Real ID if you have not been pre-verified.

Your state’s driver’s license issuing agency will tell you what documentation you’ll be required to present to apply for a REAL ID; at minimum, you’ll need to provide documentation showing full legal name, date of birth, social security number, two proofs of address of primary residence and lawful status. For more information, consult your state’s driver’s license issuing agency website or DHS REAL ID FAQ page . Pennsylvania residents can visit the PA REAL ID FAQ page.

Even though driver’s licensing and REAL ID centers may have restricted hours in Pennsylvania and other states, now is the time to get the documentation in order and be prepared to apply for a REAL ID once the centers are fully open again.


Media Contacts

Heather Redfern
Public Affairs Manager
Shawn Hawes
Public Information Officer

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