Example PHL City ID for Mayor Jim Kenney

Updated April 8

Having trouble getting a driver’s license? There’s now another option for photo ID. On Thursday, Philadelphia joins the list of U.S. municipalities offering their own identification card.

Called PHL City ID, the badge will grant access to schools, city buildings, library branches and rec centers. It’s considered a useful alternative for people who are not able to obtain more traditional, state-issued ID cards because of extenuating circumstances, such as experiencing homelessness, having uncertain citizenship status, being a minor or being transgender.

The card, which is purposely inexpensive, allows residents to choose a nonbinary option for gender, or to not disclose gender at all.

Other cities with similar programs already in place include New York, Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco. Hartford, Conn., was one of the first to adopt a municipal ID policy in the wake of Trump’s election. Philly’s plan has been in the works since 2017, when the city partnered with Temple’s Sheller Center for Social Justice to study issues surrounding data collection and security.

Over the past two years, officials have been streamlining the protocols and lining up partners, and now the ID card is officially ready to launch. Here’s what you need to know.

Who can get PHL City ID?

Any resident of Philadelphia who is 13 years of age or older and can prove their identity and address. Information is available in multiple languages.

What documentation do I need to get one?

You’ll need at least one document with a photo (although youths aged 13-21 can have a caretaker vouch for them if they don’t have it), one with a date of birth and one that proves your residency.

While the regulations for what’s acceptable are less stringent than at the DMV, the city is using a point system that gives more weight to certain documents — you need four points total in order to qualify.

A valid passport will score you three points, for example, while a foreign birth certificate gets you just one. Unlike with a state-issued driver’s license, the city will accept letters from social service agencies — there’s even a template at the ready — or pay stubs to prove residency.

Check the full list of documentation options and use this online “calculator” to determine if you have enough points.

How much does it cost?

PHL City ID costs:

  • $10 for adults
  • $5 for teens aged 13-17
  • Free for people 65 and older

Credit and debit cards are not accepted for payment yet — that’s expected to start in May, and there’ll be a $1 convenience fee attached. If you’re paying in cash, exact change is required. Money orders made out to the City of Philadelphia are also accepted.

The price is much lower than the $30.50 it costs to get a Pa. driver’s license ($60.50 for a Real ID version.)

Where can I get one?

Municipal IDs require you to apply in person at City Hall, Room 167. You can either schedule an appointment or walk in. The application is available online if you want to fill it out in advance.

Scheduled appointments are available 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Walk-ins are accepted on Wednesdays, or you can try to catch one of the pop-up kiosks the city says it will be hosting.

What name will be displayed?

The application has one space for “Full Name” and a separate entry for “Legal Name” if they are not the same. It’s not entirely clear from the form which one will show up on the card.

As a Billy Penn reader noted, many transgender people have a legal name that’s different from the name they use in social and professional settings.

A city spokesperson clarified that the legal name is the one that will be printed.

However, if you submit court documents that show a name change is underway, the city will accept those as valid proof, and not require you to wait for the official certificate, which often takes longer to process at the state level. This info can be found on Page 2 of the municipal ID regulations.

What will the card let me access?

You can use municipal identification to:

  • Sign in to schools
  • Enter city buildings
  • Access recreation centers
  • When interacting with law enforcement (within city limits)

City officials are currently working to convince local banks to accept the card as valid identification to open an account.

What won’t it let me access?

PHL City ID cannot be used in place of a driver’s license, or to board a plane. (Soon you’ll need Real ID for that.) It’s also not valid to enter federal buildings, like the mint or federal courthouse.

What benefits come with the card?

Officials have been making the rounds to get business and agencies on board to offer discounts and access for municipal ID holders. So far, they include:

  • Free Library — you can link an existing library card to this ID or simply use it as a new one
  • Uber/Lyft — discounts may be available
  • Various museums including the Art Museum, African American Museum, Penn Museum and Woodmere
  • Kimmel Center
  • The Phillies
  • Mural Arts
  • Various restaurants including Las Cazuelas and Vista Peru
  • Community services agencies like Prevention Point and the William Way Center

See a full list here.

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...