What Philadelphia-area travelers need to do to get a REAL ID-compliant license to board an airplane starting October 2020

Local Press Release
Friday, October 4, 2019

PHILADELPHIA —  As the one-year countdown to the implementation of REAL ID has begun, it is the perfect time to check whether you have a star on your Pennsylvania driver’s license. If not, there’s still time to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license with that star on it. But it’s better to get it sooner, rather than later.

Pennsylvania residents who want to board an airplane for a domestic flight will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license starting October 2020. If their driver’s license is not REAL ID-compliant, travelers will need another form of approved identification, such as a passport, to board their domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility or military base. The REAL ID driver’s license and identification card have a small star in the upper right corner to indicate they meet federal regulations that establish minimum security standards.

The upgraded REAL IDs will be required for domestic flights starting October 1, 2020. Transportation Security Administration officers who staff the ticket document checking station at airports will not allow travelers into the checkpoint without a REAL ID license or another form of acceptable ID after October 1, 2020, because of a federal law (The REAL ID Act of 2005) that mandates that a REAL ID is needed for federal purposes.

“October is here, marking the one-year countdown to October 2020 when travelers who want to use their driver’s license for identification at a TSA security checkpoint will require a REAL ID-compliant license,” says Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Acting Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport.  “A REAL ID-compliant license requires drivers to provide proof of their identity to get the license.”

REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and identification cards across the country “Remember that the terrorists on 9/11 had fraudulent ID and these improvements are intended to inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification,” Spero said.

“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. This will help ensure residents have their REAL ID well in advance of the October 1, 2020 deadline.”

Pennsylvania residents have the option to upgrade to a REAL ID-compliant license or stick with a standard driver’s license when they get a new license at a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) office. However, a standard credential—without the star—will not be valid to board a domestic flight or to access secure federal facilities, including military bases and some federal offices.

Unsure if a REAL ID is right for you? PennDOT has an online tool that will help determine if a real ID is what you need.  

To get the REAL ID star, individuals will need to visit their local PennDOT office in person and bring certain documents to prove U.S. citizenship and Pennsylvania residency. Required documents include one proof of identity, one proof of legal presence, two proofs of Pennsylvania residency, a social security card and a current driver’s license if you are applying to exchange one issued by another U.S. state. If you received your first Pennsylvania driver’s license, learner’s permit, or photo ID card after September 1, 2003, PennDOT may already have your REAL ID documentation on file. To find out if your required REAL ID documents are on file with PennDOT, apply for REAL ID pre-verification online. If PennDOT confirms that your documents are on file, you can order your REAL ID online without a need to visit a driver’s license center.

TSA has posted new signs at airports nationwide to remind people that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card or U.S. military ID, will be mandatory for air travel beginning on October 1, 2020. Critically important, on October 1, 2020, individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.

For more information and details about how to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card in Pennsylvania, visit the PennDOT web site.

TSA also has a one-minute video that provides information about flying with a REAL ID.