Don’t Freak Out: You Can Still Use Your Pa. License to Get On a Plane

For now, at least — the feds just granted Pennsylvania *another* REAL ID extension. Here's the deal.

real-id-pa license

A sample license courtesy of PennDOT

Worried about the TSA turning your Pennsylvania license away at the airport? You’re safe — for now.

The federal government just granted Pennsylvania another REAL ID extension, meaning residents will be able to use their state licenses to board commercial flights and enter federal facilities for roughly 10 more months, until August 2019. After that, they’ll have to get on board with the soon-to-be-implemented REAL ID program.

The program, for those who don’t know, is the result of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which mandates that all state IDs must comply with certain minimum federal standards. Pennsylvania (like a few other states) has been relatively slow to catch up (this isn’t our first extension), and REAL ID cards won’t be available here until March. (We’ve got information on how you can register for a new REAL ID card ahead of time, if you’re wondering.)

Previously, there was some confusion as to when current licenses would no longer be accepted at airports and in federal facilities. The last extension granted by the Department of Homeland Security was set to end this coming October 10th, though a “grace period” would have allowed residents to use their current licenses to board flights and enter federal facilities until January 22, 2019. Now, given that REAL ID cards are expected to become available in March, residents will have roughly six months after then to obtain the new form of ID before current state licenses will no longer be accepted at airports and federal facilities.

If you’re nervous about getting a REAL ID quickly, there’s good news: you can apply for REAL ID pre-verification before March to help speed along the process. You’ll have to visit a PennDOT center, though, and you’ll need to bring the following documents with you:

  • Proof of identity (original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal, or valid U.S. passport)
  • Proof of social security number (unlaminated social security card)
  • Proof of all legal name changes (marriage certificate or court order issued by your county’s family court)
  • Two proofs of current, physical Pa. address (current, unexpired Pa. license or ID, and a no more than 90-day-old bank statement or utility bill with the same name and address)

If everything checks out, you should get a REAL ID sent through the mail when they become available. Otherwise, if you wait until March, you’ll have a few options — like visiting one of 13 soon-to-open REAL ID centers (including one location in Philadelphia), where you’ll be able to receive a REAL ID over-the-counter at the time of service.

For more information on REAL ID in Pennsylvania, visit PennDOT’s website.