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Kathleen Zinszer
Sr. Public Aff. Specialist, CT/DE/NJ/PA
O: (302) 299-4168
C: (610) 291-7312

PHILADELPHIA, PA (October 1, 2020) – Domestic air travel is about to change for Pennsylvania residents. Beginning October 1, 2021, 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.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has resumed issuing REAL IDs at reopened Driver License Centers offering driver license services, following suspending the issuing REAL IDs throughout the state in March 2020 due to COVID-19.

Additionally, the federal Department of Homeland Security postponed the enforcement date for REAL ID from October 1, 2020 to October 1, 2021 in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration. 

REAL ID is optional in Pennsylvania and now residents who want a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID card can once again apply for one ahead of the October 2021 federal enforcement date. 

“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 2021.” 

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, 2021.

“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 2021 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, 2021.

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.

What is the process to apply for a REAL ID?

The first step in the process to receiving a REAL ID is verification. Visit any PennDOT Driver License Center or REAL ID Center to have your documents verified and imaged.

Applicants need to bring the following documents:

  • 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
  • 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 

Receiving your REAL ID

  • When you visit a PennDOT Driver License Center to have your documents verified and imaged, you will receive your REAL ID by mail within 15 business days.
    • When visiting a REAL ID Center to have your documents verified and imaged, you will receive your REAL ID at the time of service. There are three REAL ID Centers located in the Philadelphia-area:

      • King of Prussia - 43 S. Gulph Road, King of Prussia
      • Norristown - 1700 Markley Street, Norristown
      • Philadelphia - 2904 South 70th St., Philadelphia 
  • If you have already had your documents verified and imaged, you can apply for a REAL ID online. Your REAL ID product will be mailed within 15 business days

The REAL ID card costs $30 (one-time fee), plus $31.50 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. 

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.

Follow us on Twitter: @AAAPhillyNews

AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 60 million members nationwide and more than 3.2 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 appss for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit

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