Community Issues

Pennsylvania's New "Real ID" Cards Now Available

The wait for federally mandated "REAL ID" driver's licenses and identification cards in Pennsylvania is over.

The wait for federally mandated "REAL ID" driver's licenses and identification cards in Pennsylvania is over. The IDs are available starting today. They'll be required identification beginning in October 2020 if you want to fly anywhere, or enter a federal facility.

"So far so good," said Penndot spokesperson Alexis Campbell when we asked how things were going on the first day. PennDOT has been working for over two years to establish new drivers license centers or retrofit old ones to issue the new ID cards. It's taken so long because PennDOT decided to phase-in the process of pre-verifying people for the new ID's. They also had to build new systems to process the IDs, and even installed extra security at the ID centers, like more cameras and even bars on the heating and air-conditioning ducts to keep someone from breaking in.

There are 12 centers across the state where you can get your new REAL ID in one day. The closest one to Pittsburgh is the Bridgeville center which is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

"The Bridgeville location is very busy today," said Campbell. That's because it's a brand new building for not only REAL ID but for regular licenses. "The site was closed all week so their normal traffic that would have visited that center is coming in today."

Other new stations opening Friday throughout Pennsylvania include King of Prussia, Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster and Norristown. Existing centers in Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Rockview, Erie, Altoona and Philadelphia have been retrofitted to issue the new cards.

If you don't want to drive all the way to Bridgeville to get a REAL ID, you have options. If you got your first Pennsylvania Drivers License after September 1, 2003, PennDOT should already have the needed documentation on you, so try registering on line ( click here ).

If you need to provide the required documentation, you can go to your nearest PennDot driver's license center to apply for REAL ID and you'll get it in the mail in two weeks or less. Click here to see what documents to bring with you.

"We're excited. this has been a long time coming and a lot of work." Alexis Campbell, PennDOT spokesperson

The federal Department of Homeland Security ordered states to offer the harder-to-duplicate ID cards as far back as 2005. The move was as a response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Pennsylvania and several other states resisted due to the cost of the program. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette , more than $24 million has been spent on establishing Pennsylvania's centers, including hiring over 200 new employees to review documents and process requests for the cards.

"Getting a real ID is optional," Campbell points out. "If they have a passport or don't fly they don't need to worry about this right now." After 2020, "your drivers license won't be acceptable to board a flight."

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