Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Your support is key 🔑

70% of our budget comes from individual members, making our work possible without paywalls.

Will you join us?

After a pandemic pause, PennDOT has resumed issuing Real IDs, the security-enhanced version of a state-issued driver’s license.

The Department of Homeland Security mandated the new identification via the Real ID Act, with an original deadline of this fall. That’s been pushed back a year because of the coronavirus, and is now Oct. 1, 2021 for all states.

Do you really need one? No, but people who don’t upgrade won’t be able to use their licenses to board a plane or enter a military facility.

If you’re interested in getting a Real ID in Pennsylvania, here’s what you need to know.

Cost is $30 extra

The new license will run you $60.50, as opposed to the usual $30.50 PennDOT renewal fee, because it’ll include a one-time $30 Pa. Real ID charge.

The Real IDs will last you four years, plus any remaining time on your regular license if it wasn’t already expired. After you pay the one-time $30 charge, the price of renewal will drop back to the usual $30.50.

Lots of documentation needed

In order to nab one of the enhanced security badges, you’ll have to provide additional documentation, including:

  1. Proof of identity (one of the following)
    • birth certificate (with raised seal)
    • passport
    • certificate of citizenship
    • certificate of naturalization
  2. An original Social Security card
  3. Two proofs of current address (two of the following)
    • current driver’s license
    • Pa. vehicle registration
    • auto insurance card
    • computer-generated utility bill
    • tax records
    • a W-2 form
    • lease or mortgage documents
  4. Documents showing all legal name changes

Some can apply online

For residents who received their first Pa. driver’s license or ID card after September 2003, which PennDOT estimated is around 3.5 million people, the agency may already have documents on file.

If you’re in that group, you can go online to check if your docs are there, and if so, fill out a form so that PennDOT can mark your record as “verified.” If you’re lucky enough to have that status, you’ll be able to apply for and receive Real ID via mail.

Otherwise, you’ll have to go to somewhere in person.

You can do it in two steps by hitting up a regular driver’s license center for verification and then wait for the documents to be mailed to you. Or, if you can make it to one of 12 Real ID centers — the Philly one is on 70th street near Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest — you can do the whole thing over the counter.

Probably not everyone will get one

PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services Kurt Myers told Billy Penn in 2018 he expects just over 10% of the approximately 10.6 million Pennsylvania residents with driver’s licenses or ID cards will upgrade. Another 1.2 million people are expected to get Real ID after that deadline.

Avatar photo

Michaela Winberg

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...