Want to Fly? Get REAL (ID)

Pennsylvania now issuing REAL ID cards -- required for all air passengers starting October 2020

By Matt Neistei

Published April 15, 2019

Read Time: 2 mins


On Oct. 1, 2020, your driver’s license will no longer get you on a plane at Pittsburgh International Airport.

That’s when all Pennsylvania residents must show a new form of identification — called REAL ID — to board a commercial flight. Older drivers’ licenses won’t be accepted, though a valid passport will still work.

REAL ID cards are encrypted with multiple safeguards and can’t be fraudulently reproduced.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation began issuing REAL ID cards on March 1. To get one in Allegheny County, you’ll need to go to the Driver License and REAL ID Center in Bridgeville. Be prepared to show:

  • Proof of identity, such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal or a valid U.S. Passport;
  • Your Social Security card (laminated or sealed-in-plastic cards are not acceptable);
  • Proof of all legal name changes, such as a marriage certificate or court order issued by your county’s family court;
  • And two proofs of your current, physical Pennsylvania address.

Congress passed the REAL ID law in 2005, prompted by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The law established national minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The new cards are required for federal purposes; in addition to flights, you’ll need your REAL ID to enter federal buildings (excluding federal courts) or gain entry to military bases.

At a Driver License Center, you’ll be asked to opt in to REAL ID, similar to the way you choose to become an organ donor. If you answer yes and provide all of the required documentation, you’ll receive your REAL ID card in the mail in seven to 10 days.

If you go to a REAL ID Center with the required documentation, you’ll get your card on the spot. (The Driver License Center in Bridgeville is also a REAL ID Center.)

There is a one-time fee of $30 for a REAL ID. If you’re renewing your driver’s license, you’ll pay the $30 plus the cost of renewal, and your REAL ID will become your driver’s license.

If you received a learner’s permit, driver’s license or photo ID after 2003, the state has your required documentation and will contact you about obtaining your REAL ID. You also can click here to find out if your required documents are on file.

If you received a learner’s permit, driver’s license or photo ID before 2003, PennDOT will contact you with instructions about when and where you can receive your REAL ID.

You’ll need to provide the four forms of identification listed above. Regardless of when your Pennsylvania driver’s license expires, you can obtain your REAL ID any time.

Don’t forget: You’ll still need a valid passport to fly to international destinations. More information on obtaining a REAL ID in Pennsylvania can be found here.

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