REAL ID Deadline Looms in Less Than Year

After delays, travelers have until May 3, 2023, to upgrade IDs

By Bob Kerlik

Published May 9, 2022

Read Time: 2 mins


The REAL ID countdown is on, for REAL this time.

Beginning May 3, 2023—now less than a year away—everyone in the United States will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or photo ID card, a valid passport or a military ID to board a domestic commercial flight.

Federal Homeland Security officials implemented the new deadline after numerous delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 1, 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has processed about 8.3 million customers, with more than 1.6 million individuals choosing to obtain a REAL ID program. The remaining 6.7 million have chosen not to participate; they will have to use another federally acceptable form of identification come May 2023.

“Although a year seems like a long time to get ready, the deadline will be upon us before you know it. We encourage our customers who want a REAL ID to get one as soon as possible,” said PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula.

Vince Gastgeb, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations for Pittsburgh International Airport, expressed concern that people who don’t travel much may not be aware of the requirement.

“We don’t want anyone to be surprised when they show up a year from now,” Gastgeb said. “We’ll continue to work with the state and others in making the public aware.”

The airport has hosted previous REAL ID events in conjunction with PennDOT and partnered with other organizations across the state in raising public awareness. PIT will host more awareness events over the next year, Gastgeb said.

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 REAL ID to enter federal buildings (excluding federal courts) or gain entry to military bases.

Most REAL IDs can be easily identified by a star in the upper right or left corner. The cost varies by state, ranging from $10 to $85.

At a Pennsylvania driver’s license center, you’ll be asked to opt into REAL ID, similar to the way you choose to become an organ donor. If you answer yes and provide 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, outside Pittsburgh, is also a REAL ID Center.) There is a one-time fee of $30. 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.

U.S. passports will remain an acceptable form of REAL ID-compliant identification even after the 2023 deadline. For more information on REAL ID in Pennsylvania, click here.

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