Editor's note: This story was originally published in May.
There has been a lot of discussion over the past few months about the deadline to get Real ID-compliant identification.
The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 to establish minimum security standards for states to follow when issuing driver’s licenses and identification cards needed to board domestic commercial flights and to access secure federal buildings.
I travel often, so I figured, as a matter of convenience, I would need this form of identification at some point.
That’s how I found myself at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in East Lampeter Township.
Although the wait at the center was already an hour and a half at 10 a.m., it took me only 15 minutes from when I stepped up to the teller window to get my documents verified and receive my new card.
By going through this process, I learned a few things:
Is getting Real ID identification mandatory?
For Pennsylvania residents, getting Real ID-compliant identification is optional, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Melanie Baldwin said.
If you don’t ever plan on taking a commercial flight or entering a federal building that requires identification, a military base or nuclear power plant, you do not need to get the Real ID-compliant license or state identification.
Or, if you have a passport or another federally accepted form of identification, you don’t need this card.
I have a valid passport and technically didn’t need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to travel domestically. But as a person who loses everything, I wanted the option to use my Real ID license and leave my passport at home.
Baldwin said that she has noticed that people are getting their driver’s licenses upgraded even though they already have passports.
What if you travel a lot, but you don’t want a Real ID?
As long as you have documents such as a passport, active military ID, permanent resident card or another form of Transportation Security Administration-approved identification, you don't need it.
What is the deadline to get one?
The Oct. 1, 2020, deadline is when federal agents will begin enforcing the Real ID Act.
“As of 10/1/2020, if you do not have a Real ID-compliant ID, you will not be allowed to board our flight or any domestic commercially scheduled flight,” R. Keith Sisson, chief marketing officer for Southern Airways, which flies out of Lancaster Airport, said in a statement.
You also won’t be able to access secure federal property.
What happens if you don’t have a Real ID on Oct. 1, 2020?
Nothing, unless you are taking a domestic commercial flight or trying to access a secure federal building where Real IDs are required.
You can get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card anytime you want.
How much does a Real ID-compliant driver’s license cost?
If you’re getting your driver’s license for the first time, you’ll pay $35.50 for your initial permit and four-year license, plus a one-time $30 fee to upgrade to a Real ID license.
If you’re renewing your driver’s license, you’ll pay the annual $30.50 fee, plus the one-time $30 fee. If you’re renewing your Real ID driver’s license, then you’ll only pay the $30.50 renewal fee.
If you plan on only traveling domestically, a Real ID license or state ID is more affordable than getting a passport.
The cost of a new passport book is $145 for citizens 16 and older, $115 for children younger than 16 and $110 for renewals.
The price of getting a new passport card is $65 for 16 and older, $50 for children younger than 16 and $30 for renewals. Passport cards cannot be used for all international travel — they can be used only for domestic travel and travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Real ID-compliant driver's licenses and state identification cards cannot be used for international travel.
Where can I get one?
All DMV locations can process Real ID applications; however, there are only 12 centers in the state where you’ll get your card on the spot. One of those centers is at 2090 Lincoln Highway East in East Lampeter Township.
If you go to any other DMV locations, it can take up to 15 business days to get your card mailed to your home.
What documents do you need?
You will need your birth certificate or passport, your Social Security card and two proofs of state residency.
I took my passport for proof of identity and my driver’s license and a hospital bill for proof of residence.
Almost any bill or official paper with your address on it can be proof of residency, Baldwin said.
Can you apply online?
You can't complete the process online, but you can get it started.
If you received your first Pennsylvania driver’s license, learning permit or identification card after Sept. 1, 2003, your documentation might already be in the system and you might qualify for pre-verification online, Baldwin said.
To pre-verify, you have to go onto the PennDOT website — https://www.dmv.pa.gov/REALID/Pages/REAL-ID-Pre-Verification.aspx — and put in your driver’s license number, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Once submitted, a postcard or email will be sent to you to inform you if you fit into this category.
Is your recently renewed license Real ID-compliant?
Unless your driver’s license or state identification card has a gold star in the upper-right corner, it is not Real ID-compliant.
If you recently renewed your license, but want to upgrade it to a Real ID-compliant one, you will not lose the remaining time on the card before it expires, Baldwin said. The remaining time on the card will be adjusted up to 7½ years, she said.
Do children need identification?
Children younger than 18 are not required to show identification if they are traveling with a parent or companion domestically. The accompanying adult will need to have Real ID-compliant identification.