Pandemic Puts Pause on Pennsylvania Real ID

State plans to resume issuing new federally mandated IDs in ‘late summer’

By Matt Neistei

Published June 29, 2020

Read Time: 2 mins


When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the federal government to push back an Oct. 1, 2020, deadline for Real ID enforcement, few were surprised.

The aviation industry was almost universally concerned that travelers would not be able to secure the upgraded identification that would have been required to pass through airport security checkpoints by that date. Add in a global pandemic, and the one-year delay announced on March 26 was welcomed with relief.

However, the ensuing months-long closure of driver licensing centers in Pennsylvania has made getting a Real ID impossible. Even after the state Department of Transportation began reopening centers in early June, it did not resume issuing Real IDs.

It’s not yet clear what impact this will have on the new implementation deadline of Oct. 1, 2021, but a PennDOT spokesman said residents will start receiving the new cards in the next couple of months.

“PennDOT is planning to resume issuance of Real ID products in late summer 2020, and there have been no changes to the application or verification processes as a result of the pandemic,” said Diego Sandino.

Debbie Bowman, executive director of the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, said residents should be proactive about applying for Real ID, even if the state is not currently issuing them.

“As we continue to navigate today’s COVID-19 challenges, we have an opportunity to use this time to prepare to obtain a Real ID,” she said. “Put together the documents PennDOT will require to issue you a Real ID-compliant driver’s license. Be sure you can continue to fly after October 1, 2021.”

Getting Real ID

Obtaining a Real ID card requires submitting an original birth certificate or passport, a Social Security card, proof of residency and documentation of any name changes. There is a one-time $30 fee in Pennsylvania.

Residents may apply online or in person at specially designated drivers license centers.

Congress passed the Real ID law in 2005, prompted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to increase security measures for state-issued identification. The new cards are required for federal purposes; in addition to flights, you’ll need Real ID to enter federal buildings (excluding federal courts) or to gain entry to military bases.

U.S. passports will remain an acceptable form of Real ID-compliant identification even after next year’s deadline.

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