The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that REAL ID services are available again at Driver License Centers offering license services across the commonwealth.


PennDOT paused REAL ID issuance throughout the state in March 2020 in the interest of public health near the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, the federal Department of Homeland Security postponed the enforcement date for REAL IDs from Oct. 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021 in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration.


REAL IDs are option in Pennsylvania, and there is no requirement that any resident obtain a REAL ID. PennDOT continues to offer standard-issue driver’s licenses and photo IDs. Residents do not require REAL IDs to drive, vote, access hospitals, visit the post office, access federal courts, or to apply for or receive federal benefits like Social Security or veterans’ benefits.


However, REAL ID is a federal law that affects how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are meant to be acceptable for federal purposes. Federally-acceptable forms of identification – including Pennsylvania REAL ID driver’s licenses or ID cards, a valid U.S. passport or passport card, a military ID, etc. – must now be used on and after Oct. 1 2021 for identification purposes when boarding a commercial flight or visiting a secure federal building that requires a federally acceptable form of identification for access.


Residents can check if a REAL ID is right for them by visiting the Department of Motor Vehicle’s REAL ID online wizard.


Customers can obtain a REAL ID by presenting documents for verification and processing at driver license center, as per federal regulations. Customers must present proof of identity – such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate filed with the State Office of Vital Records/Statistics with a raised seal/embossed or valid, unexpired U.S. passport – proof of a Social Security number via a Social Security card under a current legal name, two proofs of a current physical Pennsylvania address – including a current, unexpired state drier’s license or identification card, vehicle registration or a utility bill with the same name and address – and proof of all legal name changes, if the resident’s current legal name is different than what is reflected on a proof of identity document – including certified marriage certificates issued by the County Court, or court orders approving a change in legal name or amended birth certificate issued by the State Office of Vital Records/Statistics.


Customers can order their REAL ID online if they have been pre-verified, in which case their REAL ID will be mailed to them within 15 business days; they can visit any PennDOT Driver’s License Center that is open for driver license services to have their documents verified and imaged, after which their REAL ID will be mailed to them within 15 business days; or they can visit one of Pennsylvania’s 12 REAL ID Centers and receive their ID over the counter at the time of service.


PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services Kurt Myers said that many customers who have received a license or ID after 2002 would qualify for pre-verification.


"The significance of that is that is when the department began imaging of documents, so we may very well have all the documents we need on file already, and if that’s the case, the individual can order the REAL ID over our website," Myers said.


The closest REAL ID Centers to Monroe County are open in Whitehall, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport, with photo center and driver license center hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.


Customers obtaining their first REAL ID product will pay a one-time fee of $30, plus a renewal fee – currently set at $31.50 for a four-year non-commercial driver’s license or photo ID. The expiration date on the initial REAL ID will include any remaining time on the customer’s non-REAL ID product, plus an additional four years, unless the customer is over 65 and has a two-year license. This ensures that customers do not "lose" any time that they have already paid for. Once the initial REAL ID product expires, customers no longer have to pay additional fees beyond the regular renewal fees.


Since March 1, 2019, PennDOT has processed about 4 million customers, with more than 912,000 individuals opting to join the REAL ID program.


Myers said there was a "tremendous amount of momentum going" before the pandemic hit the commonwealth in March, with about 6,000 REAL IDs issued per day up to the point when PennDOT locations closed. According to Myers, PennDOT expects that demand for REAL IDs will be somewhat lower until a COVID-19 vaccine is made available, making travel less risky. Advertising campaigns for REAL IDs are expected to relaunch soon in order to inform the public of their availability.


"It is still our estimate that approximately 1.3 million customers will want a REAL ID before the effective date," Myers said. "We haven’t changed on that. We expect overall that inevitably about 2.5 million of our customers out of the 10.1 million total IDs and driver’s licenses issued in the commonwealth will ultimately want a REAL ID or opt in for a REAL ID, so about 25% of our customer base is our expectation at this point."


Customers can find more information about document requirements for REAL ID – including a printable document checklist – on the Document Check page of the PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services website.


Driver and vehicle online services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include driver's license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; driver license and photo ID duplicates; and driver exam scheduling. There are no additional fees for using online services.