The one-year countdown to REAL ID implementation has begun. 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. REAL ID will also be required for entry to federal buildings and military bases. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had extended the deadline for REAL ID compliance twice--October 2020 and October 2021-- in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At airports, REAL ID compliance is enforced by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers. Travelers without REAL ID licenses or other form of acceptable identification will not be allowed to enter security checkpoints.
"You know you have a REAL ID if there is a star on your driver's license or state-issued ID," said Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) Chief Operating Officer Keith Brune. "If you need REAL ID, the sooner you start the process, the better, to beat the last-minute processing rush. We don’t want anyone showing up at PHL on May 3, 2023, only to be turned away because they don’t have REAL ID or a passport."
In 2005, Congress 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.
Important tips to remember:
- Because your state is REAL ID compliant, that doesn’t mean your driver’s license is 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 beginning 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.
- The 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.