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Jana Tidwell
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AAA Mid-Atlantic: Make REAL ID a Part of Your Travel Plans

Domestic air travel requirements change for PA residents October 2020;
do you have the right ID?

PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 23, 2019) – Domestic air travel is about to change for Pennsylvania residents. Beginning October 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license, photo ID card, or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board a domestic commercial flight. 

For those planning ahead, the optional REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and photo ID cards are available now to Pennsylvanians who want them. 

“Pennsylvania residents who plan to travel domestically by plane should take advantage of the opportunity to get their REAL ID identification sooner rather than later,” said Debby Calvert, Managing Director of Travel for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Travelers interested in obtaining a REAL ID should begin the application process ahead of time to ensure they do not experience any travel delays or postponements. A REAL ID or valid passport, will be required for all domestic flights beginning in October 2020.”

AAA urges Pennsylvanians to learn more about REAL ID before all Pennsylvania air travelers are required to have a REAL ID or valid passport in order to board a domestic flight beginning October 1, 2020. 

“AAA travel experts are advising their Pennsylvania clients that getting a REAL ID sooner rather than later is the best way to save time and potential last-minute scrambling when planning air travel,” said Karen Fisher, AAA Travel Agent. “October of 2020 may seem like a long time from now but planning can start early for trips like a destination wedding or family reunion.” 

What is REAL ID?

The REAL ID Act is a federal law that affects how states issue driver’s licenses and photo ID cards if they’re going to be used for certain federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic commercial flight, access to military installations or entering a secure federal building that requires federally acceptable ID at the door.

  • A REAL ID-compliant product will be marked with a gold star.
  • REAL ID products are produced using the same security features as standard-issued products.
  • After March 2019, standard-issue, non-REAL ID driver's licenses and ID cards will also look different. Per federal REAL ID regulations, non-REAL IDs must be clearly labeled with the words "NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES."

Do You Have to Get a REAL ID?

REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents.  You will be able to get either a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card, or a standard driver’s license or identification card.  If you do not get a REAL ID, you must have an alternate form of federally-acceptable identification (valid passport, military ID, etc.) to board domestic commercial flights, access military installations, and enter certain federal facilities that require federally acceptable ID after October 1, 2020.

It is NOT necessary to have a REAL ID to:

  • Drive
  • Vote
  • Apply for or receive federal benefits for which you are entitled (Veterans' Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.)
  • Visit the post office
  • Access hospitals
  • Access Federal Courts, testify in federal court, etc. 

How do you get a REAL ID?

Pennsylvania residents who choose to get a REAL ID have three options for obtaining one:

  • Apply online (pre-verified customers only)
  • Visit any PennDOT Driver License Center to have your documents verified and imaged, and receive your REAL ID by mail within 15 business days
  • Visit a REAL ID Center to have your documents verified and imaged and receive your REAL ID at the time of service. 

“We encourage residents interested in applying for a REAL ID to start the process now, and be aware of all proper documentation needed,” said PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services Kurt Myers.  “Starting the process now will ensure residents have their REAL ID well in advance of the October 1, 2020 deadline.”

Applicants need to bring an original or certified copy of a birth certificate filed with the State Office of Vital Records/Statistics with a raised/embossed seal or a valid U.S. passport; social security card (can be laminated or unlaminated) in current legal name; proof of legal name changes such as a certified marriage certificate or court order; and two proofs of address such as a current driver’s license or ID card, a bank statement or utility bill less than 90 days old. For more info on required documents, visit 

The REAL ID card costs $30 (one-time fee), plus $30.50 for renewing the existing non-commercial license or ID card for another four years. The time for the new card will be added to any time left on the existing card (driver’s license or non-driver ID) so applicants won’t lose time they previously purchased.

Customers can visit any PennDOT Driver License Center with the required documentation to apply for REAL ID and their REAL ID product will be mailed to them within 15 business days. The following Philadelphia-area PennDOT Driver License Centers can issue REAL IDs over the counter:

  • King of Prussia - 43 S. Gulph Road, King of Prussia
  • Norristown - 1700 Markley Street, Norristown
  • South 70th St - 2904 South 70th St., Philadelphia 

Visit to learn more. 


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on December 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act (the Act), as passed by Congress, that will implement the Act in a measured, fair, and responsible way. 

Secure driver's licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.


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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 60 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit

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